January 15, 2014 Articles

Responsibly Handling FMLA Intermittent-Leave Requests

Failing to treat leave requests with due care can result in litigation that proves far more costly than the leave itself.

By Don Davis – January 15, 2014

Congress adopted the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., to prevent and remedy discrimination against employees who must miss work due to their serious health condition, the birth of their children, or to care for family members suffering from a serious health condition. Congress amended the FMLA in 2008 and again in 2009 to provide fairly expansive protections for employees who need time away from work for reasons related to their family members’ military service and to clarify the eligibility requirements with respect to airline flight crews. Jan. 28, 2008, Amendments, Pub. L. No. 110-181; Oct. 28, 2009, Amendments, Pub. L. No. 111-84; Dec. 21, 2009, Amendments, Pub. L. No. 111-119. The U.S. Department of Labor promulgates regulations, found at 29 C.F.R. part 825, to give force and specificity to the law’s requirements.

The FMLA as amended provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a one-year period and a guarantee to return to their position or a similar position. In addition, employers must maintain the qualified employee’s group health coverage. When “medically necessary,” leave must be granted on a part-time or intermittent basis. Employers may not “interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of” these rights, and violators are subject to “consequential damages and appropriate equitable relief.” Ragsdale v. Wolverine World Wide, Inc., 535 U.S. 81, 86–87 (2002).

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