The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives certain workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs. Employees who meet FMLA requirements can take a leave of absence in order to treat a serious medical condition, care for an immediate family member, or bond with a newborn or adopted child. Clearly, employees who take this type of leave have a lot on their plates at home, so they may not have any interest in dealing with work-related issues. What about the employer who has lost an employee while they are out on FMLA leave. May an employer contact employees who are on FMLA leave to discuss work?
Employers should respect their employees’ rights to take FMLA leave to deal with issues in their personal lives. If they fail to do so, the employee may have the right to file a FMLA interference claim against their employer.
The law does not state that employers are prohibited from contacting employees who are on leave. However, an employer should not contact an employee to ask him to return to work or complete work while on leave. Doing this could be considered FMLA interference since the employer is discouraging the employee from taking advantage of his right to a leave of absence.
Not all contact between an employer and employee who is on leave is considered interference, though. Some employers may reach out to employees who are on leave simply to check in on them and see how they are doing. Dealing with medical issues or welcoming a child to the family can be stressful, so employers often want to show their support by reaching out to their employees who are on leave. Phone calls or emails like these would not be considered interference.
While the employee is on leave, the employer may run into a problem that no one will be able to solve except for the employee. For example, an employer may need to access the employee’s password-protected client files. Although this is a gray area of the law, employers are typically not accused of interference for contacting an employee in this type of situation. But, employers should not contact an employee about these issues unless he is really the only one who can step in and solve the problem.
Since the law does not establish clear boundaries regarding contacting employees who are on FMLA leave, it’s best for employers to contact employees as little as possible to avoid legal trouble.
If your employer has violated your right to FMLA leave, contact our experienced attorneys today. We will work tirelessly to hold your employer accountable and protect your rights in the workplace. Please call Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. today at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.