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FMLA: What to do when worker refuses OT

by on
in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

With staffing levels trimmed to the bone, that can mean mandatory overtime for some workers. Of course, some employees don’t like being told they have to put in OT, especially if they have medical conditions that make it difficult to work extended hours.

However, you are within your rights to insist on overtime.

Employees with a serious health condition that precludes working extra hours may have to go on intermittent FMLA leave. If that’s the case, you can then subtract any overtime hours they refuse from their 12-week FMLA allotment.

Recent case: Danny Mays worked as a line mechanic for American Electric Power. Line mechanics had to be available for extra work beyond their regular 40-hour workweeks in order to provide repair coverage during storms, natural disasters and accidents that caused power outages.

Mays has irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and agoraphobia.

His doctors told him he shouldn’t work more than 40 hours per week. He told his supervisors, who informed him he needed to get a certification approving him for intermittent FMLA leave if he wanted to refuse mandatory overtime. He did and quickly used up his FMLA leave by refusing overtime.

Then, instead of terminating Mays for additional absences, his employer demoted him to a lower-paying job.

He sued, alleging American Electric Power had wrongly calculated his FMLA leave and interfered with his rights by demoting him to a job that paid less but didn’t require overtime.

The court tossed out Mays’ case, explaining that the employer had done everything correctly. (Mays v. American Electric Power, No. 2:08-CV-1124, SD OH, 2010)

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