FMLA regulations allow leave to be run concurrently

Properly designed and executed policy can keep you out of trouble when dealing with the tricky overlap between FMLA compliance and your state’s workers’ compensation law. That point was stressed in a recent Illinois court case.

Leave Ran Out

An employee sued his employer after he was terminated for excessive absences. He had hurt his back at work, and claimed workers’ compensation benefits.

The company ran his FMLA leave down while he was out with the injury. He wasn’t ready to come back when his FMLA medical leave expired, and he had no other leave coming.

Following its policy on unexcused absences, the company fired him.

He argued that this was not in FMLA compliance.

Not so, a federal court said.

FMLA regulations specifically allow Family & Medical Leave Act leave to run concurrently with a workers’ comp absence, as long as the employer lets the employee know what’s happening. In the case before the court, the employer did.

First, its policy of running FMLA leave during workers’ comp absences was laid out in the employee handbook. Then, more than a month before the employee’s FMLA medical leave expired, the company sent him a letter reiterating the policy and informing him how much FMLA leave he had left. He later received another letter telling him the date his leave under FMLA guidelines would end.

FMLA Compliance is Across the Board
Also helping the employer’s case: Its policy of terminating people who failed to return after 12 weeks of FMLA leave was followed in all cases, whether they involved workers’ comp or not. So there was no question here of punishing someone for claiming workers’ comp or violating their excellent record of FMLA compliance.

Cite: Dotson v. BRP U.S. Inc., No. 07-1735, 7th Cir., 3/21/08.

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