Uncompensated time may put hourly workers over FMLA threshold, p3

In our last post, we were talking about the Family and Medical Leave Act. As we said, the act ensures that an employee’s job and health insurance are protected when the employee takes time off for what some call “a major life event.” Here in Wisconsin we have our own FMLA, and it differs from the federal law in a few ways.

The most important difference for our purposes today is how long a worker must be employed to be eligible under the law. In Wisconsin, the threshold is 1,000 hours of work over 52 consecutive weeks. Most other states follow the federal law: 1,250 hours during the 52 weeks immediately preceding the leave.

What happens, though, if a part-time, hourly employee puts in additional, unpaid time?

For example, one woman worked as a teacher’s aide at a preschool. Her hours were the hours the school was open: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. One of her duties, though, was to prepare the room for the toddlers before they got there. That meant she came in five to 10 minutes early every day. Some days, too, she had to work through lunch. The school was closed over the summer.

When she requested time off under the FMLA, her employer added up her hours: 1,174. The school wasn’t in Wisconsin, and the federal threshold of 1,200 applied. The school denied her request, and she sued.

She argued that the unpaid time should be included. Those minutes setting up the room and those lunch hours she didn’t take may not have been paid, but they were work.

The court agreed. Unfortunately, the plaintiff’s total hours — with the unpaid time included — still did not reach the 1,200 threshold. The case wasn’t in Wisconsin.

Now, if the school had been in Wisconsin, the 1,000 hour threshold wouldn’t be a problem. But were the hours logged over 52 consecutive weeks? After all, the school was closed over the summer….

That is a discussion for another time and a future post.

Source: Business Management Daily, “The two-headed monster waiting to trip you up,” Dec. 11, 2011

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