FMLA Leave Can Be Taken in Hourly Increments

FMLA Leave Can Be Taken in Hourly Increments

THE U.S. Department of Labor recently issued new guidance on the federal Family Medical Leave Act that has upended the notion of what qualifies as leave under the statute.

Its Wage and Hour Division in February issued a guidance letter noting that employees with a serious illness may use intermittent leave under the FMLA to work a reduced schedule for “an indefinite period.” That is a significant departure from the typical FMLA scenario where workers will take days, weeks or months off from work for a qualifying reason under the law.

The ruling paves the way for workers with serious health conditions that may limit how many hours they can work in a day to do reduced hours, which will count towards the law’s leave limit of 12 working weeks per 12-month period.

In other words, if an FMLA-eligible employee reduced their working hours by two every day, they would never exhaust their allowed leave (two hours a day for an entire year).

The FMLA entitles eligible employees to take unpaid job- protected leave for qualifying family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage.

The takeaway

This guidance changes the dynamic of family medical leave for both employers and employees.

In one sense, if employees are FMLA-eligible but still feel they can work a restricted amount of hours, it could be a benefit for an employer that needs the manpower they may lose with someone who takes weeks off work.

It would also allow the employee to earn a paycheck (albeit reduced by the hours they don’t work).

But for employers that need all hands on deck and working full shifts, this could be a burden.

If you are faced with a situation where an employee requests a restricted work schedule under the auspices of the FMLA, discuss your plans with legal counsel.

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