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OK to lay off worker who took FMLA leave as long as that’s not a factor in the decision

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employers have the right to ex­pect employees to manage their personal lives to minimize workplace disruptions. Yes, some absences are unpredictable and the FMLA provides time off to cover them. But once an employee has used up FMLA and other leave, requiring employees to show up and get their work done is a reasonable expectation.

You can and should punish unreasonable absenteeism.

Recent case: Kathie was a good employee and received regular promotions.

Her employer worked with her as she struggled to care for three children with varying medical and psychological problems that required frequent absences.

All went well and Kathie was able to meet her employer’s expectations.

Then Kathie took three months off for her own medical problems. When she returned, she continued to miss work for her children’s problems and personal appointments. Her bosses leaned on her to at least give them advance warning and, when possible, note her appointments ahead of time on a calendar. She didn’t.

When the economy tanked and the employer’s business struggled, Kathie lost her job.

She sued, alleging she was ter­­minated because she has disabled children.

Her claim was tossed out. The court reasoned that the employer could consider attendance when deciding personnel cuts, as long as it didn’t use FMLA leave as a factor. (O’Donovan v. Weingarten, No. 01-11-00884, Court of Appeals for the 1st Dis­­trict of Texas, 2012)

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