Administering medical leave can be tricky for Connecticut employers. Mistakes can prove costly and legally problematic. Here are just some of the risks:
- Employers could face claims of discrimination if some employees are treated differently than others.
- Improper administration may appear to be discouraging employees from taking FMLA time (Family Medical Leave Act), legally problematic to be sure.
- Being too strict on leave requests can also lead to legal trouble.
- Inconsistent treatment can lead to employee morale issues, and productivity declines.
So, what is the proper way to manage medical leave?
We offer these guidelines:
• If an employee is absent for more than three days, their manager should determine if the reason for the absence is medically-related.
• If medically related, the manager should evaluate the basis for any medical leave and determine which policies and/or law(s) may apply (ADA, FMLA, Workers’ Compensation, CT Paid Sick Leave/sick leave policy, Short-Term/Long-Term Disability) and whether the employee has met eligibility requirements (period of employment, need for leave, qualifying condition, etc.).
• Managers must never promise or allow employees to decide that leave is/is not governed by FMLA, short-term disability (if applicable), workers’ compensation, or that leave will/will not be covered by paid benefits (sick time, vacation time).
• Management (in conjunction with Human Resources or legal counsel) needs to determine a priori notice obligations and medical certification requirements for employee leave issues.
• Combining all applicable laws and policies, employees need to be provided with the most generous benefits in terms of the amount of leave, pay and benefit status during leave, and alternatives to leave (such as transfer or light duty work).
• During approved medical leaves, employee’s position must be kept open (absent limited special circumstances) but may be temporarily filled.
• Finally, managers must coordinate with Human Resources, where applicable, to monitor employee leave and determine any reinstatement rights and obligations.
If you’re an employer and have questions about labor and employment law, including the proper handling medical leave issues, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys has over 25 years of experience in employment and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please call us if we can help you.
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