Post # 1
I’m trying to determine whether or not my company is handling my FMLA situation correctly.
Backstory: I’m suffering from severe anxiety and depression that was exacerbated by my little brother’s suicide 4 months ago (December 2012). The depression/bipolar symptoms that I’ve always dealt with became almost unbearable in the last few weeks. I began to have suicidal thoughts and panic attacks, so I got in touch with a psychiatrist who confirmed that my depression and anxiety have rendered me unable to function at work with my normal 40 hours/week and heavy workload. The doctor wrote a letter to my HR director (who also happens to be the supervisor of my department…don’t ask) recommending that my hours be reduced for the next 3 weeks, at which point she’ll evaluate me again to see if I’m improving.
I brought the letter to the HR director who told me that I could apply to use my FMLA benefits to reduce my hours. I asked if they could just make my job hourly for the 3 weeks (I started as an hourly worker and was made full time later on), and she said “Absolutely not. Your job is not an hourly job.” So, she filled out the FMLA forms online and told me that I’d have to use the rest of my paid time off (which includes vacation and sick days) to cover the 10 hours/week that they’re cutting from my schedule. It would mean that I’d give up ALL my remaining paid time off for the rest of 2013.
She also said that, after the 3 weeks has passed, if I haven’t started to “pull myself together”, she “doesn’t want to lose me” but she’d need to find someone who can do the job at the normal heavy workload. Fine. Whatever.
I told the doctor about all of this when I went in for my appointment today. The doctor thinks it’s fishy that I was told I needed to apply for FMLA in order to reduce my hours. She said that FMLA should only be used if it’s actual LEAVE, as in, I’m not in the office at all.
Can any of you shed light on this? The doctor told me to see if I can find a lawyer who can clarify my rights and possibly take action if my company is acting inappropriately.
I’m so worn out from my symptoms as it is – I’m having trouble processing all of this.
I’m trying to find a new, lower-stress part time job that will allow me to quit this one. I can’t afford to quit without something lined up. My husband’s salary isn’t enough. I’ve been at this place for over 2 years and I definitely want out.
Thanks in advance for the help 🙂 You guys always come through.
Post # 3
i believe your doctor is correct, but check with your local state work laws as each state is different.
Post # 4
It’s been about seven years since I was a department director and had any involvement with issues involving FMLA, but I believe your HR Director/Supervisor is exactly correct in how she is handling the situation.
Post # 5
Post # 6
Sorry but I think your HR person is correct.
Post # 7
I’m not in HR but according to the actual US Dept of Labor, I think your HR Director is correct in this situation. Here are the excerpts that apply (sorry for the wacky spacing, their FAQ sheet is in a PDF which causes copy/paste issues):
“FMLA leave may be taken in periods of whole weeks, single days, hours, and in some cases even less than an
hour. The employer must allow employees to use FMLA leave in the smallest increment of time the employer
allows for the use of other forms of leave, as long as it is no more than one hour. If an employer uses different
increments for different types of leave (for example, accounting for sick leave in 15 minute increments and
vacation leave in one day increments),the employer must allow FMLA leave to be used in the smallest
increment used for any other type of leave. Similarly, if an employer allows for use of leave in different
increments during specific times of the day (for example, requiring a one hour increment of leave at the start of
the shift and using 15 minutes increments for leave at other times), the employer may use the same increment
for FMLA leave at those specific times of the day. An employer may always allow FMLA leave in shorter
increments than used for other forms of leave but no work may be performed during any period of time counted
as FMLA leave.” (page 1)
“FMLA leave is unpaid leave. However, an employee may request, or an employer may require the employee, to
use accrued paid vacation leave, sick leave, personal time, etc. for some or all of the FMLA leave period. An
employee must follow the employer’s normal leave rules in order to substitute paid leave.” (page 2)
(More info can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/)
Post # 8
Your HR person is correct. Some companies will allow you to apply to go down to hourly but they are not required to do this; typically you have to either straight up take the time off or nothing. And it’s definitely legal to make you use any sick/personal/vacation time you have accrued, since FMLA is unpaid unless you qualify for disability – which is a separate thing you’d need to apply for, and also doesn’t allow you to just go down to hourly or part time.
Post # 9
First, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. Being confused about what your rights are probably only makes it worse.
My mother’s doctor signed my FMLA paperwork for “as needed” time off. This meant I could take off early, come in late and/or miss a full day when my mom needed me. When my sister was sick last year, her doctor signed me off work completely, but my job made me take 70% of my vacation time first. I’m not sure if that was legal, but I was too tired to argue about it.
I’m pretty sure you have to take FMLA. This sort of situation is the reason FMLA exists. There is no penalty for taking FMLA. I don’t see any benefit to “just going hourly” for the that time over taking partial time on FMLA.
While your boss may be able to hire a temp to help with the work you are not able to do, you can not lose your job because you were on FMLA.
Post # 10
I’m an HR manager and handle FMLA leave for my company. I’d ask for clarifcation on the comapny’s FMLA leave policy before assuming the HR Director isn’t applying the law correctly to your situation. You should know that you have 12 total weeks of FMLA leave time per year (could be calandar, could be rolling, up to the company to decide).
The company can (and should, in my opinion) dictate that vacation or other PTO be taken concurrently with leave.
Post # 11
I’m going to ask the HR director for some clarification. I think I’m also really turned off by her attitude towards me. It seemed like she couldn’t decide whether to be sympathetic or annoyed. I don’t need anyone’s sympathy, don’t get me wrong, but there were moments in the conversation when it seemed like she was treating me as though I was asking for a bunch of freebies, not dealing with a serious illness. The whole company is very poorly managed, and she even told me that she had never handled an FMLA request for someone who wasn’t taking maternity leave. She was reading through everything really quickly and acted annoyed when I asked her to repeat the parts I didn’t understand. I was just too tired to push harder than I did.