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Adjust deadlines, help reassign projects before employee goes out on FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees who take FMLA leave can’t be disciplined for work that goes undone while they are out. To avoid confusion, always adjust schedules or find backup to meet inflexible deadlines while the employee who is usually responsible for the work is away.

Recent case: Carlos worked as a project manager for Carestream Health. His team was responsible for meeting strict deadlines, and Carlos managed their work. The company wasn’t entirely satisfied with his leader­­ship and placed him on a performance improvement plan.

Then Carlos developed some medical problems that required time off under the FMLA. He took about a month off.

Before going out on leave, his supervisor sat down with Carlos to discuss how Carestream and his team would meet their deadlines in his absence. The team managed to meet most of its deadlines, but was about a week behind on one project.

About eight months after returning, Carlos got a poor performance re­­view and was terminated. The re­­view did note that during his FMLA leave, some tasks were reassigned to meet deadlines.

Carlos sued, alleging he was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave and that his time off had been counted against him in the review.

The court disagreed, based on the company’s clear records that it worked with Carlos to adjust deadlines for the team and get extra help. Plus, nothing in the review indicated that the one late project was counted against him. (Gonzalez v. Carestream Health, No. 12-CV-6151, WD NY, 2012)

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