Recalculate hours worked for 2nd FMLA request

To qualify for FMLA leave, employees must have worked 1,250 hours in the preceding year. It sounds like a pretty simple calculation, but it’s not. The fact is, you could be allowing leave for employees who aren’t actually eligible for it.

Here’s one way to tighten up eligibility: While FMLA regulations dictate assessing eligibility one time for a specific health condition, employers can reassess eligibility if the employee wants to take FMLA leave for a second, unrelated condition.

Recent case: Rick Martin asked for FMLA leave to care for his son, and just barely made the 1,250-hour cutoff. Later that same year, he asked for more leave, this time to deal with his own serious health condition. His employer recalculated his eligibility and concluded he hadn’t worked 1,250 hours in the year preceding his request for the additional time off.

That happened because of his previous FMLA leave. Looking back one year from his second leave request, it was apparent he hadn’t clocked enough actual hours to hit the minimum.

Martin sued, alleging he was eligible based on the earlier calculation.

FMLA Compliance D

The court tossed out his case, explaining that if Martin had needed more time for his son, no new calculation would have been allowed. But since he needed leave for himself, the company was free to recalculate whether he had met the 1,250-hour requirement. (Martin v. Hanson Brick, No. 07-11405, ED MI, 2008)

Final note: This case is a clear indication that the courts are taking FMLA eligibility requirements seriously. Employers should double-check to make sure employees who ask for leave are really entitled to it. Employees who miss the 1,250-hour minimum by just a few minutes may be denied FMLA leave.