Employees out onare supposed to be freed of their regular work responsibilities. They are on leave, after all.
Some supervisors have taken this to mean that they may never call an employee who is out onleave to discuss work-related matters. That’s not entirely true.
While you shouldn’t give the employee specific work tasks or expect her to spend her time working at home while caring for a sick family member, you can make simple inquiries such as asking about the status of a project or where a file may be located.
Just keep it brief and professional.
Advice: Take the time, in advance of your phone call, to document why you need to talk to the employee. Write down when you called and how long the conversation took.
Recent case: Tammy took FMLA leave when her husband had an operation and needed care while he recovered.
During her leave, she claimed that her supervisor called her a few times, though she couldn’t recall the specifics of any particular call. She said the calls lasted from a few minutes to as much as 30 minutes.
Later, after she was discharged for reasons unrelated to her FMLA leave, she sued, alleging that the calls during her time off had interfered with her right to take FMLA leave.
The court disagreed under the circumstances. The calls were brief and didn’t require Tammy to do any work while on leave—just to answer a few questions. (Bryant v. Texas Department of Aging, et al., No. 14-20278. 5th Cir., 2015)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Don't automatically approve FMLA leave for elective or cosmetic surgery
- Don't just rubber-Stamp manager's termination recommendation
- Don't blow off legal papers unless you're prepared to personally pay back wages
- Combat employee absence with a positive discipline program