Employer almost fell into a FMLA regulatory trap when it confused the two
Does everyone in your HR Department know the difference between intermittent FMLA leave and reduced schedule leave?
Let’s hope so. But at one company in Illinois, not everyone did – and as a result they skated very close to the edge of FMLA law.
SHE GOT TIRED
An employee fell into the habit of working less than eight hours at the office, because she suffered from a thyroid condition that wore her out by mid-afternoon.
To finish out her week she took work home. When the employer tried to get her to work eight hours at the office, she balked on medical grounds.
But when she was given FMLA forms to complete, she failed to do so, and was fired.
The employee sued under Family and Medical Leave Act, and the company won – by the skin of its teeth.
Problem was, the company told the employee to apply for “intermittent leave.” What she needed, the court said, was reduced schedule leave.
The intermittent FMLA leave would allow her to take off from time to time, not what she needed. Reduced Schedule leave, by contrast, would allow her to work a shorter workday – exactly what she’d been doing.
The court warned against playing down the gravity of the employer’s mistake. If the employee had been able to prove she didn’t turn in the FMLA forms because of the employer’s insistence that she take intermittent FMLA leave, she might have won the case, the court said.
But because it appeared her failure to submit the forms was for other reasons, the company squeaked through on the right side of the law.
Cite: Ridings v. Riverside Medical Center, No. 06-4328, 7th Cir., 8/11/08.
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