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Spell out rules for returning from FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

What do you expect an employee to do at the end of approved FMLA leave? Clarify that it’s the employee’s responsibility to notify the employer and check his schedule when he receives medical clearance.

Then, if the employee ignores your instructions and doesn’t show up, it’s willful misconduct—making him ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Recent case: Dan worked for Pan-O-Gold Baking Co. for over a decade. He took 12 weeks of FMLA leave to have knee surgery and recover from it. He needed an extension before receiving full medical clearance, which the baking company approved.

Then Dan’s medical providers cleared him for work during an exam on New Year’s Eve. According to Pan-O-Gold, Dan was told he should report to work the following week and to check his schedule for assigned shifts. Dan claimed no one gave him a return date.

Dan did not show up for two scheduled shifts. On Jan. 4, his supervisor called and told him to report for a meeting. Dan then went to his medical provider, said he was having transportation problems and asked her to change the return date to a week later. She changed the form. Dan turned the alteration in at the meeting, but was still fired for being a no-show for two scheduled shifts, and for alleged dishonesty.

Dan filed for unemployment, which was denied. He appealed, alleging he never knew he was supposed to check the schedule and that he had been waiting for a call. A supervisor explained the schedule policy.

The court believed the company’s explanation and concluded Dan had committed willful misconduct, making him ineligible for benefits. (Delk v. Pan-O-Gold Baking Co., No. A14-1269, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2015)

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