FMLA regulations protect employer's changes to a benefit plan

by on March 16, 2009 · 3 Comments POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Accrued sick time is a protected FMLA benefit.

Is it legal under FMLA regulations to change your benefits package and deny employees benefits accrued under the old plan? According to a recent Court of Appeals decision, yes.

After a merger a few years ago, Wells Fargo Bank changed its benefits policy. Although the new plan was generous, it didn’t recognize the sick days accumulated by employees prior to the merger.

Angry over losing their stock of paid sick days, several employees filed a class-action suit claiming the company’s action violated FMLA regulations.

FMLA requires employers to provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for the treatment of a serious disabling health condition suffered by the employee;
the birth of a child;
the care of a child, spouse, or parent who suffers from a serous health condition.

The court ruled that Wells Fargo’s change in benefits did not run afoul of the FMLA. The judge ruled that FMLA “does not create an entitlement to accrued sick time. In short, the FMLA does not require Wells Fargo to ‘lock-in’ a particular benefits package.”

Bottom line: the court rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to link sick time policies to the FMLA. Wells Fargo’s new plan met the minimum requirements under FMLA regulations.

Cite: Funkhouser v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, Nos. 00-35397 and 00-35410, 5/15/02

3 Comments on This Post

  1. dale suter
    May 7, 2010 - 4:51 pm

    what if you have an employee that uses the 12 weeks of fmla year after year one two three or four days
    at time when every he wants and you have to keep some one hired to take his place.

  2. Anonymous
    May 10, 2010 - 12:29 pm

    I WORK FOR A COMPANY THAT IS USING THE BAD ECONOMY TO REPLACE FULL TIME JOBS WITH PART TIME HELP FROM A TEMP SERVICE. TO GET TO THE 50 EMPLOYEE OR LESS REQUIRMENT I DON`T KNOW. THE POINT IS THAT THESE ARE FULL TIME JOBS WHERE PEOPLE WERE LET GO AND REPLACE WITH A TEMP SERVICE. ARE THESE TEMPS COUNTED AS EMPLOYEES OR EMPLOYEES OF THE TEMP SERVICE?

  3. August 24, 2011 - 10:47 am

    Very good for FMLA to look after the needs of the employees.

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