It’s OK to change work rules while an employee is out onor other medical leave. It’s legal, as long as the rule applies equally to every similarly situated employee.
Recent case: Police officer Brian Platt went out on medical leave for a disability. Earlier, he had complained that a police lieutenant and another officer were having an inappropriate relationship.
While Platt was off work, his employer changed the rules for officers out on leave. Now, Platt and others on medical leave had to report regularly to their supervisors and be available all day.
Platt sued, alleging the new rule was disability discrimination and retaliation for his report.
The court said that wasn’t so because the new rule applied to everyone, not just Platt. Plus, the court said a reasonable employee would not be dissuaded from complaining because he or she knew reporting rules while on leave might be changed. Therefore, it couldn’t be retaliation. (Platt v. Southampton, No. 09-4395, 2nd Cir., 2010)
Final note: If you suspect employees might be misusing their medical leave, a rule like this one may make sense. It discourages employees from taking sick time when they really aren’t ill because they will have to stay home or risk being caught.
Caution: Be careful before applying such a rule for someone such as a new mother home on FMLA child-rearing leave. Restricting her ability to leave the house probably amounts to interference with her right to takefor birth and child bonding. Use common sense for other FMLA leave situations, too. An employee taking FMLA leave to care for a sick parent probably won’t be home. Nor will a parent offering psychological support for a child who is in the hospital.