One way companies help curtail FMLA abuse: Hold employees on medical leave to the same absence policies as everyone else. But is that legal?
One company’s policy required employees taking sick leave to call in every day to report an absence. After missing three days without reporting, employees were fired.
The rule applied to employees on extended medical leaves, including FMLA. The company’s handbook stated that “FMLA does not change [the company's] leave of absence procedures,” and when employees took FMLA, they were given paperwork reminding them that they still had to follow the call-in policy.
An employee was granted intermittent FMLA because of a severe allergy and took leave for several weeks. At first, she called her manager every day in accordance with the policy, but then stopped. After she failed to call for three days, the company fired her.
She sued, claiming the company couldn’t fire her while she was on FMLA and that asking her to call in infringed on her rights under the law.
But the judge didn’t buy it. Employees taking leave can be fired as long as companies can show they would’ve lost their jobs even if they weren’t on protected leave.
In this case, it wasn’t the fact that the woman took FMLA that got her fired — it was her violation of company policy. Since the policy applied to employees on all leaves of absence, the company showed it didn’t single out employees on FMLA.
Cite: Bacon v. Hennepin County Medical Center