Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for, among other reasons, health issues. However, employers may wonder if they are obligated to keep the employee in his or her job, especially if the employee was about to be terminated. Wisconsin employers who have questions regarding FMLA may be interested in reading about a recent ruling on this issue by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

The court ruled that employers are allowed to terminate employees while they are on FMLA leave as long as their performance problems are documented, and the employer can show that itintended to fire the employee regardless of the FMLA leave. This action can still be taken even if an employee has fully recovered from an illness, or if the illness had nothing to do with poor work performance.

Under FMLA, the employee’s medical issue must be of such that it interferes with his or her ability to perform the duties the job requires. The law also protects employees from being fired on the sole ground that the employee took the leave of absence. Moreover, the law prohibits any employer from denying, restraining or interfering with eligible employees who try to exercise their right to take a family or medical leave. The law also makes a provision for employers to reinstate employees to their original position prior to taking the leave.

Sometimes people must take an unpaid leave from their jobs due to a medical or family cause. Workers who feel that their employers have unfairly discriminated against them in this regard may want to meet with an attorney to see if there is any recourse available.

Source: HR BLR, “10th Circuit says return to work from FMLA leave not guaranteed”, Barbara Koenig, Jan. 18, 2016

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