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How Long to Tolerate a ‘Disappearing’ Employee?

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. We’re a small business with eight employees. One employee frequently takes off for six to eight weeks with medical problems. She’s done this each year for the past three years. It’s a huge burden because very few people have her training, so we can’t hire a temp. How long do we have to allow her to disappear for months at a time? —M.S., Ohio

A. You probably realize that your company is too small to be covered by the FMLA. Also, your business isn’t covered by the ADA, which applies to those with 15 or more employees. So, unless your business is located in a state that has a medical leave or disability law that covers employers with eight or fewer employees, you have no statutory requirement to provide any medical leave. In addition to statutory coverage, you should also consider whether you have an employment agreement or in-house policy that provides for medical leave. Indeed, immunity from statutory liability doesn’t necessarily equate to immunity from breach of contract claims.

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