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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Managing tricky FMLA situations

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides job-protected leave for eligible employees. Qualifying FMLA leave can be taken intermittently, and this may sometimes create cumbersome tracking for managers, especially if you never know when the employee will be absent.

Consider the following case.

Mark has recently notified his supervisor, Pete, about his approved FMLA leave and has begun taking time off on an intermittent basis. Due to the nature of his medical condition, Mark is not able to give sufficient notice to Pete when he is absent due to his condition. In fact, Pete has been getting e-mails or phone messages from Mark stating that he won�t be at work up to three hours after the start of the workday.

Pete is getting frustrated because he doesn�t know what projects or deadlines have to be met on the days that Mark is out unexpectedly, and Pete is getting into hot water with his customers due to poor service. Office staff members have noticed that things are not being communicated and projects aren�t being submitted on a timely basis. Pete feels the need to take action, but he doesn�t know what to do.

Pete is not unlike many managers and supervisors across campus who struggle with managing cumbersome leaves. FMLA is not an easy leave to manage, and we must make sure that we do not retaliate against someone who takes FMLA leave. But how can managers like Pete still manage their staff without knowing who will be there from day to day? Let�s take a look at some suggestions.

Mark�s leave as FMLA designated provides him job-protected leave, but he is still required to give reasonable notice. Pete can ask Mark to call in within the first scheduled hour of work. If Mark�s work day starts at 8 a.m., he can be required to call between 8 and 9 a.m. Rather than not hearing from Mark till 11 a.m. or noon, Pete knows at the beginning of the day if he needs to have someone fill in for Mark.

Pete should set clear expectations that Mark will leave every day with detailed instructions and/or updates to projects. The expectations should clearly indicate to another staff member what actions or tasks are required for the day should Mark not be in the next workday. This will help facilitate greater communication for projects and deadlines.

Leave management in general can be challenging, but setting clear expectations will go a long way towards managing those tricky FMLA leaves. Please contact Employee Relations for questions and/or comments regarding leave management and specific leave issues.

- Steven Putt
Employee Relations

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