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Employees shouldn't be scared to request FMLA leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides workers with a way to take off a little extra time for family and medical needs when they arise. FMLA allows for workers to not only take the unpaid time off, but to continue having employer-provided health care coverage as well as security that their job will be available for them when they return.

Sadly, some employees are losing their jobs anyway shortly after they return. Why? Some employers aren't thrilled when they have to grant more time off and they are punishing the employees when they return. In some instances, the employer does not adjust to the leave by changing the performance goals, lowering sales requirements or extending deadlines for those who are on leave. The result is that although they have a job to come back to, they are receiving negative performance reviews.

Failure to adjust the goals to reflect the time off or causing an individual on leave to actually do work in order to keep up could amount to interference with the right to take FMLA leave.

An example of this can be seen in a recent lawsuit filed in the 7th Circuit by a man with a heart condition. He worked as a salesman with strict goals to measure sales efforts and results, including daily call requirements and sales visits. He required FMLA time off for his condition, and when he returned, he was too far behind in the goals.

His lowered performance prompted a "ride along" with a supervisor to an upcoming sales call one day after he had time off for medical testing to diagnose a possible lung tumor. Without proper time to prepare, the call didn't go well and he was fired shortly after. The employer pointed to the performance goals, but the court determined that even the days off while undergoing heart procedures had been included in the measurements.

Source: Business Management, "Avoid FMLA suit: Cut slack for leave-takers," Dec. 5, 2012

The Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted to protect employees, not as a source for retaliation. If your FMLA rights were interfered with in Kansas or Missouri, our website provides information and access to experienced advocates.

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