Tell supervisors: Never discourage FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

FMLA leave can cause major headaches for supervisors. After all, they have to make sure the work gets done while an employee is out. That can be especially difficult if they’re trying to hold off on hiring and get by with current staffing levels.

Sometimes, a boss’s frustration can come across to employees as anger and resentment for requesting or taking FMLA leave. Any resulting lawsuits can succeed if the employees can show that management persuaded them to work while on leave, return sooner than originally planned or otherwise not use their full FMLA leave entitlement.

Recent case: When Najat an­­­nounced she was pregnant, she alleged that her supervisor suddenly became hostile to her. She went out on leave in late December right before her due date.

Soon, she was hearing from co-workers that her supervisor was asking impatiently whether she had given birth yet. She also recounted a phone conversation during the early days of her leave in which her boss allegedly told her that she had to come back early or else risk losing out on promotion opportunities. Plus, word got back to Najat that the supervisor proposed advertising her job because she wasn’t coming back.

Najat didn’t return early. She stuck it out and came back after using all her FMLA entitlement.

Then she sued, alleging interference with her right to FMLA leave.

Fortunately for the employer, this was a case of no harm, no foul. Essentially, since Najat’s plans didn’t change despite the pressure, her supervisor hadn’t interfered with her rights. It would have been a different matter if she hadn’t used up her leave because she feared for her job while on leave. (Elsayed v. University of Houston, No. H-11-3636, SD TX, 2012)

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