When salesperson travels, where’s FMLA base?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The FMLA applies to employees who have worked more than 1,250 hours and for one year—provided their employer has a staff of 50 or more working within 75 miles of the employee’s base. Typically, the base is where the employee reports.

But when a salesperson travels over a set territory and works from home, the base is the location from which the employee receives assignments and to which she reports.

Recent case: Patricia O’Dea-Evans worked as a salesperson for A Place For Mom, a company based in Seattle. She sold referrals to elder care facilities in a sales territory covering Illinois.

When O’Dea-Evans needed time off to deal with her mother’s illness, she asked for FMLA leave. She was placed on leave—and then fired.

O’Dea-Evans sued, alleging FMLA violations.

The company said she wasn’t eligible for FMLA because she didn’t work from a location that had at least 50 employees within 75 miles. It argued that her home base was her sales coach’s home address in Tennessee. Early in the litigation process, the company asked the court to toss out the case.

O’Dea-Evans argued she didn’t get many assignments from the coach; most came from the Seattle headquarters. She also said she turned in all her work to Seattle, not Tennessee.

The court refused to dismiss the case, saying the employer hadn’t proven that Tennessee—not Seattle—was O’Dea-Evans’ home base. (O’Dea-Evans v. A Place For Mom, No. 07-CV-674, ND IL, 2009)

Final note: Always think about the negative publicity this kind of lawsuit may generate. Depending on the nature of your business and the allegations, it may cost more in bad PR than providing FMLA leave would have.

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