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Tell those on FMLA leave: No working from home

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

FMLA leave is an entitlement. Employees who meet eligibility requirements can take time off, even if it puts their employers in a bind.

After all, the law was passed to guarantee that employees wouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their home responsibilities—such as caring for their own or a loved one’s medical needs, bonding with a newborn or preparing for military deployment.

Because FMLA leave is an entitlement, employers aren’t allowed to interfere with it.

Interference can include things like requiring employees to perform work during their leave. That’s why it’s important to make arrangements for getting work done without requiring assistance from the employee on leave.

Recent case: Eric Soehner worked for Time Warner Cable as a district sales representative and supervisor. When he came down with mononucleosis, he had to take about 30 days off to deal with fatigue and regain his strength.

Soehner continued to perform some job functions, since he had his work computer at home. For example, some of his subordinates kept submitting their sales figures and Soehner prepared sales reports, as he always had.

He returned to work and was demoted after a reorganization. He was then terminated when Time Warner discovered he and several other employees had been inflating sales figures to get bigger paychecks.

Soehner sued, alleging that his employer had interfered with his right to take uninterrupted FMLA leave. He claimed the tasks he performed from home constituted work.

The court said making someone work during FMLA leave may amount to interference. However, in this case Soehner had done the work on his own initiative, without direction from his supervisors—or their express permission. The court ruled for Time Warner. (Soehner v. Time Warner Cable, No. 1:08-CV-166, SD OH, 2009)

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