- Blog post
How to handle those rare employees who abuse FMLA
FMLA abuse is a drain on your team’s morale and productivity
Most employees, of course, work hard and play by the rules.
But sooner or later, every manager or supervisor deals with a guy like Tom, who’s always looking for an angle. When Tom found out about this wonderful thing called FMLA intermittent leave — which allows workers to take FMLA leave in small chunks to deal with chronic health or family problems — he suddenly started getting terrible migraine headaches. And always at the worst possible time.
Like today. When Tom calls in sick, his boss George says, “Well, gee, Tom, your shift starts in half an hour. I’ve got an emergency shipment to unload. It’s going to be really tough for me to get someone else in on short notice.”
Tom says he’s too sick to come in and George is thinking, “I better not say anything or I’m liable to get sued.”
The company certified Tom for intermittent FMLA leave a few months ago. His doctor’s note said Tom can take off work when he’s got a migraine. But George thinks he’s abusing it. Whenever things get busy at work, Tom starts rubbing his head.
Are managers powerless to fight FMLA abuse
No. Managers CAN take action to curb FMLA abusers like Tom. But they have to go about it the right way.
Don’t say, “Look, Tom, if this happens again, I’m going to write you up.” Reacting out of frustration and threatening to strike back is the biggest mistake you can make as a supervisor. If Tom sues, his lawyer will say you interfered with FMLA leave rights — and that’s illegal.
What you CAN do is get Tom to recertify his need for intermittent leave — assuming your company policy allows supervisors to do so. In some organizations, supervisors have to consult with HR first.
But under the proper circumstances, the employer has the right to require employees to go back to the doctor for a fresh, up-to-date certificate showing that they still need FMLA intermittent leave.
That’s a powerful tool to clamp down on employees who want to use FMLA as a get-out-of-jail-free card whenever they don’t want to come into work. Use it consistently and they’ll get the message. Which is good for your company — and all of your other employees who play by the rules.
photo credit: Tobyotter