Most lawsuits are not triggered by great injustices. Instead, simple management mistakes and perceived slights start the snowball of discontent rolling downhill toward the courtroom. Here are 6 of the biggest manager mistakes that harm an organization’s credibility in court. Use these points as a checklist to shore up your personal employment-law defense:
We’ll assist you in tracking and managing intermittent FMLA leave … fighting FMLA fraud and FMLA abuse … and managing FMLA in general.
Beyond mastering FMLA regulations on intermittent leave, we’ll share FMLA guidelines on how to curb FMLA abuse, and dramatically improve your overall FMLA compliance.
Supervisors need regular reminders—reinforced with training—that it’s their responsibility to find ways to deal with it when workers go on FMLA leave, no matter how difficult it may be to cover for the absent employee. As the following case shows, courts have no sympathy for employers that fire or make unreasonable demands on employees who exercise their FMLA rights.
Q. Last month we reinstated an employee who was on military leave for six months. It’s the same position, with the same pay he received before he went on military leave. Effective Jan. 1, 2010, all employees in his department received a 4% pay raise in recognition for their hard work in 2009. Does the law require us to pay him at this increased rate?
Q. We have an employee who will soon go on temporary military duty and be gone for several weeks. Do we have to pay him at all during his absence, or does he receive military pay?
Employees have learned to play the FMLA game quite well in the 17 years since the law was passed. In this new case, an “attendance-challenged” employee was denied extra vacation leave for her wedding. So she submitted an FMLA leave request for those same dates. Hmmmm … smell fishy?
The costs of employee absenteeism—reflected in lost production, overtime and temporary replacements for the absent worker—can add up quickly. What’s the best way to combat the problem? With a clear policy, careful documentation, consistent application of the policy and progressive discipline.
It’s true that the ADA and FMLA require you to accommodate employees with medical ailments—even employees recovering from alcoholism. But take note: You certainly can enforce a zero-tolerance policy that forbids employees to work while under the influence of alcohol. Employers have every right to expect workers to show up sober in the morning. Being an alcoholic is no excuse.
You’ve documented the poor performance. You’ve been careful to keep things professional, even as you’ve concluded you’ll probably have to fire the employee. Then he files a discrimination complaint. Avoid the temptation to speed up the usual disciplinary process.
Here’s a reminder that HR needs to do everything in its power to get FMLA decisions right: If you turn down an FMLA request and then punish the employee for missing work, she could sue, claiming she was retaliated against for requesting FMLA leave in the first place. Reversing the original FMLA decision won’t end the case.