The case of the disappearing employee, whose leaves leave us struggling

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. We’re a small business with eight employees. One employee frequently takes off for six to eight weeks with medical problems. She’s done this each year for the past three years. It’s a huge burden because very few people have her training. We can’t hire a temp. How long do we have to allow her to disappear for months at a time?

A. Since you have fewer than 50 employees, you are not covered by the FMLA. Therefore, the answer depends on whether the employee has a disability covered by the ADA or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. If so, is allowing her to take medical leave a reasonable accommodation? Does it impose an undue hardship on your business? Carefully evaluate the answers to those questions before deciding what to do about this employee.

Also, you should be careful to act consistently. Have you allowed other employees to be absent for significant periods of time for nonmedical reasons? If so, it may be risky to treat this employee differently.

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