Some employees seem to think that their employer can’t punish them for violating company rules if they happen to be onwhen their employer finds out. They think the protects them broadly from consequences. Fortunately, that’s just not true.
Recent case: Jennifer worked as a certified medical assistant at a clinic that offers a family practice, pediatric care, OB/GYN and general surgery services.
She took FMLA leave for each of her three children’s birth. During the third leave, she came into the clinic several times and left with cans of baby formula and bottle nipples. These were samples that manufacturers had provided for clinic patients. Clinic protocol required each sample given away be logged with the recipient’s name and address.
The clinic also had a company policy prohibiting employees from accepting gifts valued at $75 or more. When her supervisor saw Jennifer walk out with formula and other baby supplies, she began an investigation. She first asked Jennifer to explain. The new mother admitted she took the formula and supplies, but claimed that the formula sales representative had specifically brought the samples in for her to take home. When questioned, the representative denied ever telling Jennifer that she could take the formula.
The clinic then fired Jennifer for violating the ethics policy since the value of the formula taken was more than $75. Plus, it noted that Jennifer hadn’t logged the supplies and that she knew about the rule. Jennifer sued, alleging that she had been fired for taking FMLA leave and that the discharge interfered with her right to take that leave.
The court disagreed. It said employees are not “shielded from wrongdoing” while on FMLA leave. (Bloom v. Group Health Plan, No. 12-3060, DC MN, 2014)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Are you ill prepared? 13 steps to stay ahead of the H1N1 virus
- Instead of firing after FMLA and disability leave, consider reasonable accommodations
- What should we do when an employee provides conflicting FMLA certification notes?
- If employee can't return from FMLA leave, it's not interference to terminate