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Carefully document discipline after FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When slapped with discipline shortly after taking FMLA leave, some employees jump to the conclusion that it’s retaliation for taking time off. That would be illegal, and could prompt a lawsuit.

Don’t make their legal case easy. Make sure you can show that the reason you administered discipline had nothing to do with FMLA leave.

Recent case: Murad took FMLA leave when his wife gave birth. When he returned, he refused to work overtime, arguing that his wife needed him at home. He was allowed to skip the overtime.

Then, co-workers convinced management that Murad wasn’t just refusing overtime, but had been fudging his work hours, too. A supervisor asked HR to review timecard records and data from the security system that tracked employees’ comings and goings. They showed that Murad often punched out at some point every day for approximately 30 minutes, but continued working. Then, he would later leave the property for an hour. In other words, it looked like he was taking a half-hour lunch, but was really taking an hour. More records checks showed this had been going on for about two years. Murad was fired for cheating on his time.

He sued, claiming he was fired for taking FMLA leave.

The court tossed out his case, reasoning that the company had solid proof it disciplined him for cheating, not taking FMLA leave. (Ameen v. Amphenol Printed Circuits, No. 14-1086, 1st Cir., 2015)

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