Before the recent FMLA regulatory amendments took effect, an employer could not deny a perfect attendance bonus to an employee whose only attendance blemishes were the result of FMLA-leave. As of Jan. 16, 2009, however, employees on FMLA-leave could lawfully be denied a perfect attendance bonus:
[I]f a bonus or other payment is based on the achievement of a specified goal such as hours worked, products sold or perfect attendance, and the employee has not met the goal due to FMLA leave, then the payment may be denied, unless otherwise paid to employees on an equivalent leave status for a reason that does not qualify as FMLA leave.
In other words, as long as other employees taking similar time off are also not eligible for the same bonus, an employer can deny a perfect attendance bonus without fear of FMLA liability. The Department of Labor gives the example of an who uses paid vacation leave for a non-FMLA purpose. If an employer still provides a perfect attendance bonus to that employee, then it would be unlawful to deny the same bonus to an employee who used paid vacation leave for an FMLA-protected purpose.
While employers are now within their rights to deny perfect attendance bonuses to employees who take FMLA leave, the bigger question is whether an employer would want to withhold such a bonus. What message does that send to your employees? We value your dedication to getting to work everyday and on-time, but only if an unforeseen medical condition does not get in the way? Or is it better to pay out the bonus, even to those employees who have FMLA absences?
Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or email@example.com.