What time counts under FMLA regulations?

by on February 16, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Pilot couldn’t apply on-call time to reach required 1,250 hours for FMLA eligibility.

Employees on standby aren’t accumulating working hours for FMLA eligibility, according to a recent court decision in Utah.

The case involved an airline pilot who during certain hours was required to be ready for unexpected flight duty. Within these reserve hours, she had to be available by phone, be able to report to the airport within an hour and avoid drinking alcohol.

When she asked for FMLA leave to care for her son, the airline turned her down. She sued, but the court threw out the case, saying she didn’t qualify under FMLA regulations.

Layovers count…
In the prior 12 months, the pilot recorded 400 hours of duty and training time, plus 364 hours of layovers.

The court said it would assume the layover hours applied toward FMLA eligibility because during layovers she had to be away from home, and was thus under restrictions that interfered with her personal life. That was good enough for the hours to count under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which provides the framework for time accounting under FMLA regulations.

…but reserve time doesn’t.
But even counting the layover hours, she had only 764 hours of FMLA time, short of the 1,250 hours necessary to establish eligibility for leave.

The pilot said her reserve time should count, too, but the court disagreed. It said the restrictions of not being able to drink and having to be near a phone weren’t strict enough to make the time compensable.

Application: You don’t have to give FMLA leave to everybody who asks. Make sure to check FMLA regulations about eligibility first.

Cite: Knapp v. America West Airlines, No. 2:01CV793, D. Utah, 11/18/05.

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