Is Asking Employees to Do a Small Amount of Work During FMLA Leave a Form of Interference?

There’s an interesting story that’s been in the news recently regarding what the limitations are for employers when their employees go on FMLA leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees who meet certain standards of eligibility to take 12 weeks of leave within a 12 month period for occasions like the birth and care of a child, the adoption of a child, the care of a spouse or close relative with a serious health problem, the care of their own serious health problem or various other qualifying situations.

The recent newsworthy case features Joan Smith, who was employed as a manager at Genon Energy’s Ethics Department. In April 2012, she requested FMLA leave while she would recover from surgery to remove a cyst in her neck. When Joan returned from her leave, she resigned barely a month later, claiming that her supervisor created a hostile work environment.

According to Joan, her supervisor required her to perform much of her regular work during the time that she was on leave, including revising safety review projects, dropping files at the office and updating compliance cases. Joan estimated that she performed between 20 and 40 hours of work while on her two-month leave. She then filed a lawsuit, stating that Genon Energy requiring her to work during her leave constituted FMLA interference. Genon’s defense was that the work they asked Joan to do was minimal.

The court reviewed the claim and responded that while employers do have a right to send messages to employees during FMLA break and that the employee does not have a right to avoid communication, employers do not have a right to require the employee to do work while on FMLA leave.

If you believe that you or a loved one has had your FMLA rights violated, consult the team of dedicated lawyers at Whistleblower Law for Managers in Dallas.