Human resources and FMLA disciplinary action

Although a human resources director may not be the actual employer in a company, the actions of such an individual could be taken in such a way that the person may be considered liable for inappropriate decisions. California employees may run into disciplinary situations for a variety or work-related offenses, including the abuse of FMLA leave. Communication can be crucial for parties on either side of an FMLA conflict.

In a March 2016 decision by the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, a human resources director was deemed to be personally liable for her adverse actions against a woman who claimed that she had been the subject of discrimination for FMLA leave. The communication from the HR director was unclear as she requested the provision of documentation about medical necessity in a case of leave being taken. Although the employee handbook indicated that the employee should provide documentation for medical leave under FMLA, the law actually requires that such proof be sought in a timely manner on each occasion of an FMLA request.

An individual who is subject to handling FMLA matters in a timely way cannot make vague requests at a later date. Clarity is important. If additional documentation is wanted because of possible FMLA abuses, the request must clearly indicate what type of proof is wanted. The individual making long-term or permanent employment decisions could face legal consequences if there is a later discrimination case because of inappropriate actions.

An employee’s dismissal for misuse of FMLA time might be appropriate in some cases, but failure to clearly explain requirements in advance could undermine an employer’s case for making such a dismissal. Employees in this position may want to discuss their situation with a lawyer if there is a belief that their rights have been violated.

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