Denying leave may be legal, but unwise, for small firms

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Office Management,Payroll Management

Q. We had a full-time RN request time off to be with her husband who experienced a heart attack. We’re a small medical center with 25 employees. Administration was very upset and wouldn’t let her take any paid time off and wouldn’t guarantee her position. She had lots of sick time and vacation time in the bank. Can the company do that? —D.B., Pennsylvania

A. The FMLA is the only federal law that guarantees employees time off to care for a spouse or other family member with a serious health condition. But because your company has only 25 employees, the FMLA does not apply. (The threshold is 50 employees.)

So, as surprising as it may sound, your small company can cite its business reasons to play “hard ball” with this employee and lawfully deny her leave to care for her husband. That’s true even if she has substantial amounts of sick and vacation leave. You should, however, be aware of two caveats: (1) The company could face a discrimination lawsuit if it denies leave for this particular employee but has granted leave to other similarly situated employees. (2) Such actions could trigger employee morale problems once word about the leave-denial leaks out.

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