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Counting paid time off as FMLA leave? Tell worker you’re running them concurrently

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When Congress passed the FMLA and guaranteed eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with serious health conditions, it never intended to punish employers that al­ready provided generous paid time off.

That’s why the law says employers can run out the FMLA clock by counting paid time off against the 12-week entitlement.

Advice: Make sure employees understand how it works. That way, employees won’t run out of leave and lose their jobs because they didn’t realize the FMLA clock was ticking.

Recent case: When Joanne McCalla’s son developed cancer, she asked for intermittent FMLA leave to care for him.

She was approved for the leave and informed that her paid time off—like sick leave and vacation time—would count against her 12-week FMLA ­entitlement. The company also explained the process in the employee handbook.

McCalla’s employer notified her when her leave had expired, and asked her to return to work. She refused and was terminated.

That’s when she sued, alleging she had been terminated while still on FMLA leave because she didn’t realize her paid time counted against the leave.

The court rejected her claim, noting that the employer had told her how it was applying her leave both before she applied and when the leave was approved. (McCalla v. Avmed, No. 11-60007, SD FL, 2011)

Online resource: For advice on how to legally collect medical information from employees under the FMLA rules (and an explanation of a ‘serious health condition’) read our free primer at www.theHRSpecialist.com/FMLA.doc.

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