Issue: Make sure you're in the right before punishing people for 'misusing'.
Risk: Tons in legal fees defending an arbitrary decision.
Action: Make it clear to employees that they are to useleave time for its intended purpose.
You can discipline employees if you discover that they lied about their need forAct (FMLA) leave or they seriously misused their leave time. But think twice before you lower the boom. A court may see what you consider a serious misuse of FMLA time as merely a trivial offense.
The bottom line: You must allow employees to go about the necessary aspects of their daily lives while on FMLA leave. But make clear to employees before they take FMLA leave that they should use the time for its intended purpose, whether that's to care for their own condition or the serious condition of a relative.
Recent case: A customer service rep with arthritis worked out an arrangement with her employer that allowed her to takeas necessary for her condition. But when another employee spied the rep shopping during her leave time, the company fired her for misusing FMLA leave.
She sued and won. The district court ruled that the employee used her FMLA leave for its intended purpose, noting that the law contains no requirement that employees on medical leave must "immediately return home, shut the blinds and emerge only when prepared to return to work." (Jennings v. Mid-American Energy Co., No. 3:02-cv-90069, S.D. Iowa, 2003)
- Court rules on early FMLA protection: Never fire for requesting leave in advance
- Tell bosses: Check anti-military bias at door
- New risk: Workers can claim retaliation even if there's no adverse job action
- Any requirement to pay out or roll over unused sick leave?
- Remember: You must consider chronic conditions when employees request FMLA leave