Recouping company-paid health plan premiums after FMLA leave

Q. While my employees are out on FMLA leave, we pay our share of health plan premiums on behalf of them. If an employee does not return to work following his FMLA leave, can I recover those premiums directly from the employee?

A. Yes. The FMLA provides that an employer may recover its share of health plan premiums from an employee if the employee fails to return to work or works less than 30 days after the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement has been exhausted or expires.

However, if the employee has a valid reason for not returning to work—for example, the recurrence of a serious health condition—then the employer may not recoup those payments. The employer may require medical certification of the employee’s health condition.

As a practical matter, even though an employer is allowed to recover its share of health plan premiums from an employee, it may not be in its best interest to do so. First, it harms an ill employee who has taken leave. It also probably tarnishes the employer’s reputation in the eyes of other employees and the public.