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.


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.


  • Steph says:

    My dad was having chest pains on Tuesday night. He has a chronic heart condition. I took him to the ER and the hospital kept him overnight l and I stayed with him and requested FMLA for Wednesday to care for him and the hospital is 2 hours away from our residence.. I requested to take FMLA for Wednesday but my director said I couldn’t take FMLA because it had to be scheduled ahead of time not an emergency situation. The example she gave was maternity leave or a scheduled surgery. Reading the law it states can be used for chronic condition, which he has and I only wanted to use for one day. Does anybody know if it is unlawful for me to be denied FMLA if not scheduled because was an emergency situation? I still had to care for my father.I would be glad to fill out the forms and am still planning on requesting the forms although the director denied my FMLA

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

      Michael Boyette
      Executive Editor
      Rapid Learning Institute
      PO Box A
      Morton, PA 19070


  • Grandmaw16 says:

    my husband is 52 and has had endstage emphysima and cronic copd for about 10 years it is very seldom that i need to use it but when i do it is because he is having more difficulty breathing than usual and needs me to perform everday functions for him but my boss demands a doctors slip even though the fmla papers specifically state that i may need to miss work intermitantly if he needs care at home the last time i was called at home by my supervisor and told that if his condition required me to miss work that i need to take hime to the er, they will do the same as i do breathing treatmens and bunp his o2 up until his o2 sats come back to normal i work in a nursing home i know when he can recuperate at home or when he needs a trip to the er

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