Q. One of our employees thinks she will need about five months off for medical treatment. She wants to use her accumulated vacation and sick time and then go on. Do I have to allow this? — D.H., Illinois
A. Probably not, but it depends upon your policy. Most employers require employees to use paid leave benefits (e.g., vacation, sick leave and/or paid time off) concurrent with theirleaves. If your policy is typical, then any vacation and sick leave that this employee has accumulated will be used during the same period she is taking unpaid FMLA leave.
As you may know, the FMLA gives qualified employees a maximum of 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period (which employers usually opt to calculate on a rolling calendar basis). If the employee has accrued additional leave beyond these 12 weeks under your sick or vacation leave policies, then you will need to make sure that any decision you make regarding her continued use of leave complies with these policies.
Keep in mind, even when an employee has exhausted all of his or her accrued leave, an employer should still analyze on a case-by-case basis whether additional leave may be reasonable as an accommodation for an employee who is on leave due to medical reasons.