Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

May 09, 2014

Limited communications with employee on leave okay

Leave Laws 

Question: One of our employees is on an FMLA leave of absence. Are we allowed to contact her at all?

Question: One of our employees is on an FMLA leave of absence. Are we allowed to contact her at all?

Answer: It depends on the nature of the contact. An employer may not require an employee to perform work-related tasks during a leave of absence protected under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but communication regarding the leave and other minimal contacts are permitted.

In a recent case an employer that was restructuring told an employee her position was being eliminated. They offered her a promotion and required her to sign a non-competition agreement in order to accept the new position. The deadline for accepting the offer passed, and she said she was still working with her attorney and negotiating the salary. Nine days later her doctor recommended that she take a leave of absence for stress and she requested FMLA leave. While on leave her employer contacted her via email regarding salary negotiations and the new position. The employer also emailed her reiterating her two options: sign the agreement and accept the new position or receive a severance for termination. The court said this limited communication was okay. The employee was aware of the requirements prior to taking her leave and the employer did not require the employee to perform any work to benefit the company (O’Donnell v. Passport Health Communications, 3rd Cir, March 2014).

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