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FMLA leave doesn’t mean you can’t discipline

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in Compensation and Benefits,FMLA Guidelines,Hiring

The FMLA was enacted to let workers briefly put their careers on hold to tend to pressing personal matters like illness, childbirth and adoption, eldercare and other covered events. It was not designed to enable them to avoid discipline.

That’s why the law specifically states that employers don’t have to give returning employees benefits they would not have received if they hadn’t taken FMLA leave.

Recent case: Iliana Rodriguez worked as an administrative assistant for a decade. Then a new supervisor arrived on the scene. Almost immediately, it was apparent that the two did not get along.

More importantly, the new supervisor found fault with Rodriguez’s performance. She complained about Rodriguez’s lack of attention to details, numerous mistakes while taking minutes and other examples of poor performance.

Rodriguez didn’t react well to the new criticism. She became anxious and had panic attacks. As a result, her doctor said she needed FMLA leave. Her employer approved FMLA leave and Rodriguez was out for the full 12 weeks.

When she returned, Rodriguez was transferred into a temporary position. When she didn’t find other work elsewhere within the company, she lost her job.

Rodriguez sued, claiming she had really been fired because she took FMLA leave.

The court disagreed. It said that at most, she lost her job because her new supervisor disliked her and found fault with her work. But those are legal reasons that had nothing to do with the FMLA. The court noted that the FMLA was not designed to “aid an employee in covering up her workplace deficiencies.” As long as the employer could show it would have fired her even if she had not taken leave, the case had no merit. (Rodriguez v. University of Miami, No. 10-23114, SD FL, 2011)

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