Wednesday, November 20, 2013

HR for Principals: FMLA

WWII: Infirmary, Franklin Square House

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law designed to protect an employee’s job while they are out under certain covered circumstances.  The act entitles employees up to 12 weeks (26 weeks in some cases) of unpaid protected leave.  To be covered the employee must have worked for the employer for the 12 months (does not have to be consecutive) and worked at least 1250 hours during those 12 months. The leave can be consecutive or intermittent.

Employees can take FMLA leave for a variety of reasons including: birth or adoption of a child, care for an immediate family member who has a serious illness, for the employee’s own serious health condition, or for a qualifying exigency regarding military call-up.  If they leave is to care for an injured service member the authorized time of leave is 26 weeks.  

In most school districts the employee will apply for leave through the department of human resources, though you may be required to sign a form acknowledging that the leave will be taken. Once approved HR will typically notify the building principal via memo.  

I get a lot of questions from principals regarding teachers on FMLA leave.  One of the most frequent is, “Can I make the teacher submit lesson plans or grade papers while they are out?”  The answer is always “no!”  On leave means on leave.  

Another frequent question has to do with the teacher returning to work and goes like this, “Ms. Smith has missed a lot of work, can I mark them down on their evaluation this year?” Again the answer is “no.”  The leave is protected for a reason, if you take any action against an employee simply because they took FMLA leave you could be guilty of retaliation and lose big time in court.  It is possible to discipline and employee on FMLA leave but it is a confusing process and you should consult with your HR department before doing so.

I know it can be difficult to deal with employees, especially teachers, who are on FMLA leave but it’s a good practice to just wish those employees a speedy recovery and welcome them back when they return.  I advise principals to never ask about an employee’s medical condition.  That’s what we’re in HR for.

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