Warn bosses: Don’t say anything about medical conditions that may be covered by FMLA

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Making comments about someone’s illness is both rude and unprofessional. It may also be the basis for a lawsuit.

That’s reason enough to warn supervisors and managers against discussing medical problems related to FMLA leave—and certainly grounds for prohibiting tasteless insults.

Recent case: William, a prison guard, got excellent reviews and choice assignments. His supervisors praised his hard work. Because of his performance, he was assigned to guard a unit housing the worst of the worst, including inmates convicted of murder.

Then William became depressed and began seeing a psychiatrist. After his doctor added anxiety and bipolar disorder to his list of problems, he took FMLA leave so he could undergo treatment.

When William returned to work, he learned he had been reassigned to a different, less prestigious unit.

Then the comments began. He heard managers refer to him as “crazy” and detected new hostility.

William sued, alleging interference with his right to take FMLA leave.

The court agreed he had a case. It said comments calling someone “crazy” may constitute interference with the right to take FMLA leave. The court’s rationale: Being labeled insane and removed from prestigious assignments are things that could discourage an employee from taking leave in the first place. (Dove v. Community Education Centers, et al., No. 12-4384, ED PA, 2012)

Final note: Calling someone crazy may also violate the ADA and create a hostile work environment for disabled workers.

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