Authored by Benjamin L. Riddle
The Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") permits eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period if a serious health condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her position. Employers cannot interfere with qualified employees' benefits or leave under the FMLA; doing so could lead to an employee interference or retaliation claim. It is permissible, however, for an employer who has an "honest belief," based upon particularized facts, to discipline or terminate an employee abusing his or her leave. Although it may appear the individual is abusing his leave, do not rush to conclusions. Instead, investigate and document potential violations and give the employee a chance to respond to the accusation. Then, if there is evidence of abuse, termination may be appropriate. The best way to combat FMLA fraud is to have a clear and concise policy explaining the responsibilities of FMLA leave and the consequences that accompany its abuse.