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Is that leave legit? You can discipline for FMLA ‘Vacation’

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Do you suspect that some of your employees take FMLA leave for something a little less serious than tending to the health care needs of themselves or their relatives?

If so, here’s some good news: You can and should check up on suspicious FMLA usage. If it turns out all those Friday or Monday intermittent FMLA leave days were really spent playing golf or antiquing instead of getting checkups or nursing a sick child, punish the employee.

The fact is, FMLA leave is protected only if employees actually use it for the purpose it was intended. And it’s up to employees to demonstrate that they are using FMLA leave for legitimate purposes.

Recent case: Jennifer Fleece took off from work for two nights, ostensibly to care for her son, who has a serious health condition. She later filed a lawsuit, alleging that the company had violated the FMLA.

Fleece’s employer questioned whether she was entitled to FMLA leave, based on a suspicion that she had not really cared for her son those two nights. The employer asked the court to make her prove that she had.

The court agreed. The court said just as time spent on the golf course isn’t FMLA-protected time, neither is time that was supposed to be spent caring for a sick relative but instead was spent doing something else. Fleece will have to prove she appropriately used FMLA leave before her case can proceed. (Fleece v. BFP Diversified, No. 1:06-CV-1597, SD IN, 2008)

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