FMLA and employment law can be very complicated issues. Tayeb Hyderally is an expert at employment law and works with employees and employers to establish a solid understanding of how these laws work, who is eligible and the proper protocol for employers while an employee is on FMLA leave. Without the help of the expertise of Ty Hyderally, these matters can be very confusing for employees and employers alike. He can explain that an employee is not eligible for FMLA leave unless they have been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding FMLA leave. The business must have at least 50 employees in order for a worker to take advantage of FMLA.
Reasons for FMLA
There are only a few reasons which allow a person to take a FMLA leave. A new child, whether born or adopted, taking care of an immediate family member who has a health condition which is deemed serious, or if the employee has a serious health condition such that they are unable to perform their basic job functions. These conditions allow the worker to take a medical leave for 12 weeks in any year period; they are allowed 26 weeks of leave in one year to provide medical care for a service member with a serious illness or injury. It is essential that the company maintain constant communication with the worker who is on leave.
Terwilliger v Howard Memorial Hospital
Regina Terwilliger had been employed at HowardMemorialHospital for about two years and had worked in various capacities such as in housekeeping and in the kitchen. She submitted a request for FMLA in November 2008 because she was in need of back surgery. The request was approved by the employer and she had back surgery in January 2009. On February 12, 2009 she was released to return to work with no restrictions. On February 16, 2009 she returned to work having used just 11 weeks of her FMLA leave.
While she was recovering, Kim Howard, Terwilliger’s supervisor, communicated with her weekly to receive an update and ask when Terwilliger would be returning to work. Terwilliger reported that during one of these calls she asked her supervisor if her job was secure and her supervisor told her she should return to work as soon as she was able. Terwilliger felt as though she was being pressured to return to work. She also stated that the HR director at the hospital tried to discourage her from using FMLA leave. The HR director instructed Terwilliger to refrain from telling anyone that she had been informed of her FMLA rights.
Shortly after returning to work, it was alleged that Terwilliger stole something from a co-worker’s desk and she was terminated. Terwilliger filed suit against HowardMemorialHospital claiming her termination was an act of retaliation for taking FMLA leave. She also filed suit stating that they hospital had interfered with her individual FMLA rights by trying to pressure her to return to work. The courts rejected the retaliation claim but did uphold her claim of interference. The hospital tried to argue that she was never denied the leave she requested, but the courts stated that Terwilliger had the right to not be discouraged from going on leave.
The court’s final decision on this case may be confusing for employers about how to communicate with employees who are on leave. But this ruling suggests that just communicating is not enough since obtaining information can constitute interference if the employee feels like they are being discouraged from taking their FMLA leave.