Monday, January 23, 2012

Do not forget to tell employees how you are calculating FMLA leave

Two of the most popular post on this blog relate to how employers calculate their employees’ “annual” FMLA leave allotment:

(Go head, click through and read; I’ll wait).

On Friday—in Thom v. American Standard, Inc. [pdf]—the 6th Circuit illustrated for employers why it is crucial for employers to communicate to their employees which of the methods to calculating the 12-month period they are using. Thom involves an employee terminated either during his FMLA leave (if the employer was calculating his 12 weeks of leave using the “calendar year” method) or after his FMLA leave expired (if the employer was using the “rolling” method). The employer argued that it had always used the rolling method, which it formally published in its policies before Thom’s FMLA leave and termination. The Court disagreed:

Although American Standard did internally amend its FMLA leave policy in March 2005 to indicate that it would now calculate employee leave according to the “rolling” method, it did not give Thom actual notice of this changed policy….

This case illustrates both the importance of designating your FMLA year, and providing proper notice to your employees of that designation or any subsequent changes. In this case, the failure cost the employer $312,402.60, an expensive lesson.