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Calmly accept need for intermittent FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Intermittent FMLA leave can be a pain, especially in industries where attendance is crucial. That’s particularly true in nursing and related fields.

But employees who are otherwise eligible for intermittent FMLA leave can’t be denied that right merely because it’s inconvenient for employers that must juggle staff schedules. Accept the fact that some employees will need FMLA leave. You will avoid trouble later.

Recent case: Stacey worked as a nursing home recreational assistant. She didn’t get along with her supervisor and reported to HR that she was stressed by the workload.

She went to a counselor, who concluded Stacey was depressed because of “stress at work” and a “hostile environment” and recommended regular counseling.

Stacey requested intermittent FMLA leave to attend counseling sessions and medical checks-ups. Her request was approved and she began taking time off.

Stacey was reprimanded for missing a recreational activity she was supposed to lead, although not because she took FMLA leave. Her supervisor reminded her that having approved intermittent leave didn’t mean she could skip working when not on leave.

Shortly, Stacey was fired for incorrectly noting that a patient was in his room when in fact he was elsewhere.

She sued, alleging she had been terminated in retaliation for taking intermittent leave.

The court didn’t buy it, noting that Stacey was allowed to take her leave as she needed it. There was simply no connection between her leave and her discharge. (Naber v. Dover Healthcare Associates, No. 11-1769, 3rd Cir., 2012)

Final note: This employer did everything right. It approved intermittent leave and allowed the employee to use it. It then reminded her of her workplace obligations while not on leave. It only terminated her for legitimate reasons unrelated to her FMLA leave.

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