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Dec 03, 2015

Two-week cruise does not qualify for FMLA leave

Leave Laws 

A win for employers came recently when a federal district court determined two weeks’ leave to go on a cruise did not qualify for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) because it was not medically necessary and the employee was still able to perform the essential work functions of her position during the absence.

A win for employers came recently when a federal district court determined two weeks’ leave to go on a cruise did not qualify for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) because it was not medically necessary and the employee was still able to perform the essential work functions of her position during the absence.

The employee previously submitted FMLA paperwork in which her doctor certified she suffered from migraine headaches, would be undergoing treatment for the migraines, and needed intermittent absences from work for treatment. She then submitted a doctor’s note excusing her from work for “FMLA vacation” and stating that she would be able to resume a normal work schedule upon her return. The employer originally granted the FMLA leave, but then learned the employee was on a pre-planned two week cruise. Because the employer now had reason to doubt the necessity of the leave, it contacted the employee’s medical provider to clarify whether the medical leave qualified for FMLA. The medical provider indicated the employee was not unable to perform the essential work functions of her position during the two weeks in question.

The employer then denied the use of FMLA for the two week absence and subsequently terminated the employee for a multitude of reasons including violation of the FMLA policy and inappropriate use of FMLA (Fitterer v. State of Washington Employment Security Department, ED Wash, July 2015).

Tips: The FMLA entitles an employee to take leave because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of their position. When an employee requests to use intermittent FMLA leave for their own serious health condition, there must be a medical need for leave and it must be medically necessary due to that serious health condition (29 CFR 825.123, 825.202(b), and 825.203).

When learning information that casts doubt on an employee’s need for FMLA leave, you may seek clarification from the employee’s medical provider as to the leave’s medical necessity; however, FMLA issues are often complex, so seek assistance from your Vigilant employment attorney. For more information, see our Legal Guide, “At a Glance: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)” and Model Policy, “Federal Family and Medical Leave Policy.” You can also check out additional articles on leave laws on our blog.
 

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