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Tell employees on FMLA leave: No working from home

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

FMLA leave is an entitlement. Eligible employees 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 medical and family responsibilities.

Because FMLA leave is an entitlement, employers aren’t allowed to interfere with it. And interference can include requiring employees to perform work during their leave.

That’s why it’s important to make arrangements for work to be completed without help from the employee on leave.

Recent case: Eric Soehner, a sales supervisor for Time Warner Cable, took 30 days of FMLA leave after contracting mononucleosis.

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

Soehner returned to work, but was demoted after a reorganization and then terminated soon after.

Soehner sued, alleging Time Warner interfered with his right to take uninterrupted FMLA leave because he performed work while on leave.

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

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