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No medical certificate? You can still run FMLA leave with PTO

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Office Management,Payroll Management

You probably provide employees with paid time off (PTO)—vacation and sick leave. If you have 50 or more employees within 75 miles, you also have to allow eligible employees with serious health conditions up to 12 weeks’ FMLA leave.

Between paid leave and unpaid FMLA leave, you could find yourself holding open a job far longer than 12 weeks. But the U.S. Labor Department allows you to run FMLA leave concurrently with other PTO. That’s your decision to make, not the employee’s. The result: no more than 12 weeks off.

The same is true even if the employee never provides you with medical certification of a serious health condition.

Recent case: Darrin Tippins took a short leave of absence for an emergency heart procedure and asked to take vacation time. His employer informed him it would run his vacation time concurrent with his FMLA entitlement and deducted the time from his 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Later, Tippins had eye surgery, asked for FMLA leave and was absent almost 12 weeks. The company terminated him as soon as the combined time off hit 12 weeks.

Tippins sued, arguing that because he never provided medical certification showing he had a serious health condition for the first absence, the company couldn’t apply his FMLA leave.

Not so, concluded the court. As long as the employee handbook allowed the company to apply FMLA leave concurrently with PTO and employees received notice, the lack of a medical certificate didn’t make any difference. If it did, employees would be able to get more time off than the FMLA was designed to guarantee. (Tippins v. Airnet Systems, No. 2:05-CV-421, SD OH, 2007) 

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