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OK to ask worker to finish simple tasks during FMLA

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Need to contact an employee out on FMLA leave about pressing business matters like incomplete work or file locations? That’s perfectly fine. Courts recognize that employers may need information the employee has.

You can also ask her to complete a few simple tasks that need urgent attention as long as you don’t make it a condition of continued employment.

Recent case: Madonna, a physicians’ assistant, was supposed to complete medical charts shortly after each patient’s visit. However, she frequently fell behind and faced disciplinary action, including the potential nonrenewal of her yearly contract.

Then she broke her foot and took FMLA leave. While she was recuperating, she received a series of calls, texts and emails about patient charts she was to have completed before going on leave. Because the work could easily and quickly be done online, she was asked to complete the charts.

When Madonna’s contract was not renewed, she sued. She claimed that by asking her to complete the charts, the employer had interfered with her right to take uninterrupted FMLA leave.

The court dismissed her lawsuit, reasoning that nothing Madonna was asked to do was coerced or conditioned on her keeping her job. (Massey-Diez v. University of Iowa, No. 15-2924, 8th Cir., 2016)

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