Incomplete FMLA policy language snares employer
When an employer’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy failed to include all of the eligibility requirements in the statute, an employee who met the stripped-down version of the policy may have been entitled to FMLA leave, ruled a federal appeals court.
The policy stated full-time employees who had worked for the employer and accumulated 1,250 work hours in the previous 12 months were eligible under the FMLA. However, the employee did not work for a location that had 50 or more employees within 75 miles, which is required by the statute for eligibility. The court found the policy language prevented the employer from winning as a matter of law on the employee’s claim to FMLA protection. The court allowed the employee’s claim to move forward even though the employee was not eligible under the FMLA. The court said a jury should decide whether the employee reasonably relied on the employer’s FMLA policy (Tilley v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission, 6th Cir, Jan. 2015).
Tips: If you have some locations that have 50 employees within 75 miles, and others that don’t, it may seem unfair that the employees at the smaller locations will never be eligible for FMLA leave. Before you decide to be generous and apply the FMLA to all of your locations, though, talk with your insurance carrier: Will the carrier consent to employees staying on the health insurance plan as active employees during time off that doesn’t legally qualify as FMLA leave? It’s better to address this ahead of time, before an expensive medical claim arises.
Make sure your employee handbook is up to date and your policies are accurate and apply to all your employee locations. Your Vigilant employment attorney can help you with a legal policy review and address additional FMLA and employment law concerns.