Don’t let tardiness influence FMLA leave

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Ann Weichman, an account underwriter at Chubb, was a pain to supervise because she was so frequently late for work. Company policy allowed 12 incidents of tardiness (considered being more than 10 minutes late) per year, and Weichman always remained perilously close to the limit.

But then she developed a back problem. Her supervisor told her to take whatever time off she needed and approved intermittent FMLA leave so she could attend physical therapy sessions. Chubb assigned Weichman a parking space close to the front door and bought her an ergonomic chair.

A few days after Weichman took FMLA leave, she was late for nonmedical reasons. The company had had enough and fired her. She sued for retaliation and interference with her FMLA rights. The court dismissed her case, reasoning that Chubb adequately separated enforcement of its tardiness rule from its administration of FMLA leave. There was no evidence that the company did anything but fire Weichman for being late too often. (Weichman v. Chubb & Son, No. 3:05-CV-01403, DC CT, 2008)

Advice: Feel free to enforce work rules even for employees with legitimate FMLA conditions. Protect against lawsuits by training managers to treat all FMLA requests seriously unless they find out they’re bogus. Get medical certification if necessary, but don’t summarily assume the employee is abusing FMLA leave.

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