FMLA illustrated – suspected abuse
Ike, the production manager, came knocking on Anupama’s door one Monday morning, looking a bit frustrated. “What can we in the HR office do for you, Ike?” asked Anupama as she motioned for Ike to sit down.
“Well, you know I have a production employee, Mike, who takes off time here and there because of an old football injury, right?” asked Ike.
“Yes, I do,” responded Anupama after a moment or two of thinking.
“Well, did Mike tell you that he will likely require surgery?” Before Anupama could respond, Ike continued. “Anyway, he seems to take off mostly Mondays and Fridays. This weekend, he was seen by some coworkers at a local golf tournament in which he might have participated. This morning he called in requesting FMLA leave again. Is there anything we do to ensure all these absences are legitimate? I don’t have a problem with employees missing work for valid reasons, but with Mike, I’m getting skeptical.
Anupama told Mike that she appreciated his coming to her with his concerns. Then she asked Ike if Mike was following the company call-in policy. He was.
“From there,” said Anupama, “I will look over his certification to see what it indicates. If I need to talk to Mike, I will. I will let you know what happens.”
“Thanks, Anupama,” said Ike. I sure appreciate it. Mike is a good member of my team, and I don’t want to see him get into any trouble.
After addressing her immediate tasks, Anupama pulled out Mike’s FMLA certification. It indicated that he needed intermittent leave for one to six days per month based on pain levels. It did not, however, specifically indicate that the leave would be needed on Mondays and Fridays.
Anupama then pulled up Mike’s attendance record and noticed that in the last month, the only absences were on Mondays and Fridays. It looked like it was time to request a recertification. Even though more than 30 days had passed since the initial certification, and there was no minimum duration of the condition indicated, Anupama knew that she could request a recertification, even if 30 days had not passed, since it seemed like circumstances had changed significantly.
She began to collect the documentation, and to draft a letter to Mike requesting a recertification. She included a record of Mike’s absences and asked if the pattern was consistent with Mike’s need for leave. Since Mike was expected to be at work the next day, she would give all this to him then, and explain the situation. That way, she could watch his expression for any clues.
Two weeks later, Anupama had a recertification, and it did not indicate that the need for leave weighed heavier on Mondays or Fridays. Since their meeting, Mike had taken no leave, so it would be interesting to see whether his absence pattern had truly changed, and he no longer took leave on Mondays or Fridays. He seemed a bit taken back when Anupama had talked to him, not having ready justification for the Monday/Friday pattern.
In subsequent conversations with Ike, the problem seemed to have been resolved, at least for the time being.
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