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Scrub unnecessary FMLA references from handbook

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When an employer has an office with fewer than 50 employees within 75 miles of that location, those workers aren’t covered by the FMLA. Make sure you don’t inadvertently give them the impression that they are.

If your employee handbook contains FMLA policies designed to cover your large facilities, yet winds up being used in small branch offices, it may create expectations that can lead to lawsuits over FMLA eligibility. Scrub that superfluous language.

Recent case: Brian was an IT manager in a small branch office of a pharmaceutical company. When hired, he received a copy of the handbook, which stated, “The Company recognizes that a leave of absence from active employment may be necessary for family or medical reasons. The following leave policy complies with the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.”

Brian took leave for surgery. When he returned, he was discharged. He sued, alleging FMLA violations.

The company said he wasn’t entitled to FMLA leave because the office didn’t have 50 employees within 75 miles. But because the handbook implied coverage, it had to fight hard to get the case dismissed. Brian had a chance to prove he relied on the promise. (Palan v. Inovio, No. 14-5054, ED PA, 2015)

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