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It’s up to you to ensure employees know how much FMLA leave they have left

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave to deal with their own or a relative’s serious health condition.

Employers can use several methods to calculate that leave, including some that can get complicated. That’s one reason FMLA regulations require em­­ployers to let employees know how much leave they are entitled to.

Advice: Never ignore an em­­ployee’s request for a tally of how much FMLA leave she has used and still has available. Otherwise, you could end up in court if the employee is terminated for exceeding her allotment.

Recent case: Annette Gardner worked for the Great Lakes Cheese Company until she was fired for excessive absenteeism. Gardner took frequent FMLA leave.

The company used the rolling-­calendar method to determine FMLA eligibility. Under that method, each time an employee takes FMLA leave, the remaining leave entitlement is the balance of the 12 weeks that wasn’t used in the immediately preceding 12 months.

Gardner regularly asked for up­­dates and got them. Then her husband had brain surgery and she again asked how much FMLA leave she had com­­ing. This time, she received no response—and was then fired for exceeding her FMLA leave.

Gardner sued, alleging she should have been notified because she would have made other arrangements if she knew she was out of leave and could be fired.

The court said the case should go to a jury. (Gardner v. Great Lakes Cheese, No. 1:10-CV-183, ND OH, 2011)

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