You may have to agree to part-time schedule after employee returns from FMLA leave

Employers may be in for a nasty shock if they assume that an employee who can’t return to work full time after taking FMLA leave doesn’t have the right to reinstatement.

You may be familiar with the idea that those returning from FMLA leave may also be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA—including reduced hours. Although the FMLA does not require similar reasonable accommodations, it does require employers to reinstate employees to their former jobs if they can perform the essential functions of those jobs.

If those functions can be done on a part-time basis, then employers may have to agree to a reduced schedule.

Recent case:
Debra Womack worked in sales for RCM Technologies when she developed cancer and had to take FMLA leave. When she was ready to return, she asked to be allowed to work less than full-time hours.

When negotiations failed between the company and Womack, she quit and sued, alleging she had been denied reinstatement to her former position.

RCM argued that it wasn’t required to reinstate Womack since she couldn’t work full time. It reasoned that full-time work was an essential function of her sales job.

But the court said that may not always be the case, especially since sales associates with the company didn’t have to keep set hours. (Womack v. RCM Technologies, No. 07-2111, DC MN, 2008)