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FMLA isn’t carte blanche for all sick leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Management Training

Some employees with chronic health conditions believe that getting approved for intermittent FMLA leave means they can take protected time off anytime they feel sick. That’s simply not true.

Intermittent leave can only be taken for illness, treatment or flare-ups directly related to a condition for which a health care provider has certified intermittent leave.

You can and should tally other absences according to your attendance policy. That means employees can be terminated for missing work for other conditions that don’t qualify as a serious health condition, and the employee doesn’t have any other available time off.

Recent case: Kelvin Greer, a support services assistant at the Cleveland Clinic, took time off work to recover after hand surgery. He was then diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but controlled the condition with diet. He also developed an ulcer on his foot that caused pain.

Greer got FMLA leave for a few weeks for hand treatments. This was followed by a month’s worth of intermittent leave. The doctor certified that Greer needed intermittent leave for doctor’s appointments and treatments related to his hand injury.

But Greer missed work several days of work during the month without explanation. The hospital counted them as unexcused absences and fired him for accruing too many absenteeism points.

He sued, alleging the hospital interfered with his FMLA intermittent leave. The court rejected his argument. It said that Greer failed to show that his absences were for hand treatments and appointments, not some other reason. (Greer v. Cleveland Clinic, No. 1:10-CV-1624, ND OH, 2011)

Online resource: Read our free white paper, How to Collect Medical Info Under the New FMLA Rules.

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