When FMLA leave coincides with sick days and vacation time, lawsuits often arise.
Adverse decisions and FMLA law
Some managers are afraid to make any unpopular employment decision after an employee returns from FMLA leave. They shouldn’t be – as long as they’ve complied with FMLA law and have kept thorough records.
In this case, an employee was terminated after she failed to report to work after FMLA leave.
She didn’t return her calls
The employee didn’t return her boss’s telephone calls, she failed to provide a note from a doctor requesting additional leave and she didn’t respond to a written request to make contact or be terminated.
The employer – confident that the employee had received the calls and the letter, but had chosen to flout company policy – fired her.
The employee sued. Her claim: The employer had violated FMLA law by retaliating against her for taking leave. During her testimony, she claimed that the retaliation had begun after she requested FMLA leave, but before she took it. Specifically, she claimed she’d been denied vacation in retaliation for having requested FMLA.
How HR won this FMLA law case
Fortunately for the employer, HR had maintained a written record of her vacation request and the discussion that followed: True, she’d been denied a four-day vacation at Christmastime. But she hadn’t been singled out for that. There were other people who’d been denied holiday-season vacations.
Plus, she’d been told she could take two days off if she could get someone to cover for her – which she did.
That didn’t look like retaliation to the judge.
HR’s documentation proved that the employee’s case lacked merit. Without a written record of her vacation request, the mere time-sequence of events might have made it look as though she’d been denied a vacation because she requested FMLA leave.
Remember, FMLA law doesn’t protect an employee from any adverse action that would have happened had she not requested FMLA leave.
Cite: Krauss v. Catholic Health Initiatives.
Manager counted family medical leave as a sick day against FMLA law
A worker suffered a stress attack that required he go to the emergency room. Several months later his boss, irritated that the worker had been absent several times and left his colleagues shorthanded, fired him.
Turns out the manager counted that day off from the stress attack as a regular absence rather than FMLA leave, which it clearly qualified as under FMLA law.
This opened the door for the worker to claim that the company retaliated against him for taking FMLA leave. He won $171,000.
Cite: Taylor v. Invacare Corp. U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit. Nos 01-3824, 01-3827, 5/21/03.
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