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What should we do about executive’s offer of special leave allotment?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. The 10-month-old daughter of one of our executive assistants was recently diagnosed with an illness that will require extensive treatment. Her boss, who happens to be a very compassionate man, immediately offered her “a few extra weeks of paid vacation” to care for her daughter. Unfortunately, he told her this before HR had an opportunity to talk to her about options for time off. We are very sympathetic to her situation, but don’t think the special treatment would be received well by staff outside of the executive wing. Do we have to provide what he promised even if it’s against company policy? Is it even legal?

A. Did the employee’s boss have the authority to offer a benefit on behalf of the company? What does your employee handbook say about this issue? The boss’s offer likely would not trump a written policy that is inconsistent with the offer (depending on his position in the company), and you probably don’t have to provide the employee what her boss offered.

But, you obviously have an employee relations issue on your hands. You could allow the employee to take the extra vacation as an advance against future years’ vacation and have the employee take correspondingly less vacation in future years. You should also be aware that if the employee is eligible for leave under the FMLA (based on length of employment and your company having at least 50 employees), then she would be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and you can require her to use her paid time off during that period (if your FMLA policy so provides).

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