Employees in Wisconsin who take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act should be aware that while they are protected for taking leave, their employers can still discipline them for unrelated reasons. This happened with one woman who was a supervisor. While she was on FMLA leave, some of the people who worked for her complained to management that she spent so much time online that she was unavailable to them.
The woman’s supervisor found that she had been online for about 25 hours over a period of six weeks. On her return, she was placed on a performance improvement plan and her Internet usage was monitored. She showed improvement over the following year. However, she took FMLA time off again to deal with her sick mother and a broken engagement, and employees complained that they were not getting their reviews on time because she spent so much time online.
Management found that she had thousands of hits on websites unrelated to work and that she had been doing a great deal of her wedding planning online and fired her. She sued the company saying that she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA time. However, the court ruled against her because she was unable to show that others who had similar violations on their employee record had been treated differently.
Employees should be unafraid to ask for FMLA time or to challenge an employer that they believe has retaliated against them for taking medical leave. If they have had problems at work in the past that are documented in their employee records, they might want to discuss this with an attorney and how they could present their improvement and show that the retaliation was unrelated. Even if they were disciplined in the past for an incident, they should be protected from FMLA leave retaliation.