Family and Medical Leave Act

Q: Can my company fire an employee once the person has exhausted his or her FMLA leave entitlement?

A: Many employers are surprised to learn that they may not necessarily terminate an employee if he or she does not return to work at the end of FMLA leave.  Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave.  Upon returning from FMLA leave, except in a few limited situations, an employee is guaranteed the right to return to the same position or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment that the employee held before the leave commenced.  Under FMLA regulations, however, an employee does not have a right to return to work if he or she is unable to perform the essential duties of the position.

But what if the employee asks for more time off after the FMLA leave period has expired?
Continue Reading Interplay of FMLA and ADA Precludes Employers from Automatically Terminating Employees at End of FMLA Leave

Q: I heard there is a new parental leave law in California.  How does it compare to other states’ laws and will it affect my business if I have employees in California?

A: Parental leave laws are one of the most complicated aspects of employment law to administer and track.  There are federal, state, and local laws at play, and there is very little uniformity across the laws and across the states.  Even within one state, there may be multiple laws applicable to parental leave, and it can be difficult to navigate the interaction and overlap between the laws.  California’s new parental leave law continues to add to this complexity.
Continue Reading California’s New Parental Leave Law Adds to the Complexities of Administering Leaves of Absence for National Employers

Q.  Can I discharge an employee if I believe that he or she is misusing FMLA?

A.  According to a recent Third Circuit opinion, an employer’s honest belief that its employee misused FMLA leave is sufficient to defeat an FMLA retaliation claim, even if the employer was mistaken.

In Capps v. Mondelez Global, LLC, 847 F.3d 144 (3rd Cir. 2017), the company granted the employee intermittent FMLA leave for flare-ups as a result of hip replacement surgery.  On February 14, 2013, Capps took intermittent leave. That evening, he went to a pub and became severely intoxicated. On his way home, Capps was arrested for driving while intoxicated and spent the night in jail. He was scheduled to work the next afternoon, but called out again. Approximately six months later, Capps pled guilty to the DWI charge and served 72 hours in jail immediately following the guilty plea hearing.
Continue Reading Is an ‘Honest Belief’ of FMLA Misuse Enough for Termination?

Q: How long does an employer have to accommodate an employee’s disability in the form of a leave of absence?

A: The law in most jurisdictions is unclear. In fact, in most jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, there is no bright line rule as to the length of leave time that is reasonable under the ADA.  Typically courts look at the surrounding circumstances to determine whether the amount of time off is a “reasonable accommodation” and have held that leaves longer than three months were required in some circumstances as a reasonable accommodation.
Continue Reading When is Enough, Enough? Limiting Leave as a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA

Q: What do I need to know about the new New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law?

A: The New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“NY PFL”) provides employees with paid leave for bonding with a new child, caring for a close relative with a serious health condition, and leave associated with when their spouse, partner, child, or parent is on active military duty or has been notified of an impending call of active duty.
Continue Reading New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law: Key Provisions and Tips for Preparation

Q.  Are we required to pay holiday pay to employees who are on FMLA leave? Does the holiday extend an employee’s FMLA time off?

A.  With the holidays fast approaching, these are timely questions! With respect to holiday pay, the FMLA regulations state that employers must follow their own established policies in place for other forms of leave. So, if the employer’s policy is that employees on any type of unpaid leave of absence are not eligible for holiday pay, then no holiday pay is required for employees on FMLA leave during the holiday week.  On the other hand, if your company pays holiday pay to employees who are on vacation the week of the holiday, for example, and the employee is substituting vacation for unpaid leave, then the employer must pay holiday pay to the employee on FMLA leave.  It is therefore critical that the employer’s policy clearly states whether and under what conditions holiday pay will be paid, including when an employee is on leave.  If you do not have a policy, or your policy is not clear, now would be a good time to put an updated policy in place.
Continue Reading Checking it Once and Checking it Twice: FMLA Leave and Holiday Pay

Q: Now that the election is finally here, am I required to give employees time off to vote?

The answer to that question depends on which state you are in. There is no federal law that requires employers to give time off to vote, but many states do have such laws.  While the laws vary by state, in general, these kinds of laws provide that employers must provide time off to vote if employees do not have sufficient time to vote outside of working hours.  State laws vary as to whether the time is paid or unpaid, how much time must be given, and how much time is “sufficient” to vote outside of working hours.  Many states provide that employees are only entitled to voting leave if they provide advance notice to the employer.
Continue Reading Employers and Election Day: Voting Leave

Q.  Are there any issues I should be concerned about with regard to the Zika virus and upcoming flu season?

A.  Media attention about the Zika virus seems to have lessened now that temperatures in the Northeast have cooled.  If your business requires employee travel to Zika-infected areas, however, there are several issues for you

Q: An employee is asking to take medical leave. What sort of questions am I allowed to ask her?

A: Ask any HR generalist, and they will tell you that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job protection and continuation of health insurance benefits to employees who have a serious health condition. HR practitioners also know that they are permitted to seek information about an employee’s serious health condition to determine whether the employee qualifies for leave. But, how much can they ask, and what kind of medical questions are allowed?
Continue Reading Getting Personal: When Medical Leave Questions Cross the Line