Some employees have been getting the FMLA
runaround lately when attempting to get FMLA coverage for absences
requested in advance. In some instances the employees have been told by
their supervisors to request FMLA only to have the FMLA coordinator deny
their requests. The reasons for denial range from “incomplete
documentation”, “illegible handwriting”, and “incomplete diagnosis” to
demands for disclosure of information not required by the Family Leave
Act. The end result is clerks jumping through hoops to satisfy the FMLA
coordinator in order to receive FMLA protection for their absences. But
is that protection always needed? Aye, there’s the rub!
The Employee Labor Manual
(Sec 511.41) states that employees
are expected to be regular in attendance and “avoid unscheduled
absences”. Under the law, employees cannot be disciplined for absences
covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. This protection usually is most
effective when applied to unscheduled absences. With the exception
of extreme cases, employees are not disciplined for scheduled
absences. If an employee submits a 3971 and makes a request for
S/L in advance (dr. appt, surgery, etc. . . ) those absences become
scheduled absences and will not be used for discipline purposes. As such,
scheduled absences do not always need FMLA protections since the
protection from discipline is built in. Having a scheduled absence
covered by FMLA adds no additional protections.
If you make a request in advance
for S/L you do not need FMLA to protect your absence. Why use FMLA
hours (which are limited to 480 hrs per
year) for an absence that is scheduled in advance and already free
from discipline? As long as it’s approved as a scheduled absence, save
the FMLA coverage for potential future use. However, management can force
an employee to use FMLA for a scheduled absence. Management can designate
an absence as FMLA covered if the evidence supports it even if no request
for FMLA is made.
So, for all those employees that have
scheduled appointments, medical treatments, hospital stays, or physical
therapy. . . Submit those 3971s in advance. Get the absences approved as
scheduled absences. Save your FMLA coverage for unexpected illnesses.
Employee Labor Manual - Section
Unscheduled absences are any absences from work that are not
requested and approved in advance.
expected to maintain their assigned schedule and must make every
effort to avoid unscheduled absences.