Fmla confuses me everytime

I run into issues for requests from employees for time off for their own serious health condition, which qualifies as FMLA. My question is how to document the time off when the employee has adequate or nearly adequate accrued vacation, personal or sick time available. Our current policy indicates an employee on FMLA must take any accrued vacation, personal or sick time concurrently with the FMLA. My real question is do I have to be consistent with all employees when documenting which accrued time the employees uses first? In some situtations, an employee has nearly 90 days of sick time accrued and their leave time does not exceed this time. Is it ok to require this employee to only use only their paid sick time during their leave in this situation? Also is it ok to set a policy that allows an employee to use a certain amount of their paid vacation leave during the FMLA even if they may have sufficient sick time accrued. I guess the problem management is trying to avoid is having an employee out of leave for 90 days of paid leave and then come back and still have 3 to 4 weeks of vacation to use.
Any advice you can give I will appreciate. This FMLA just confuses me!!:(


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  • You can designate that they must use paid time, and I assume that means you can designate which time. Naturally any employee off for FMLA for personal health reasons will use sick time, but a question may arise if they are off for the health of a spouse or for bonding time with a new baby. As long as you are fair and consistent you can require them to use vacation time first in those cases. It can get confusing though. What if your employee is the mom and she takes 12 weeks? You will have to designate sick time for the birth and recovery, vacation time for the first part of bonding, and then accrued sick time for the balance. That seems difficult to administer to me.

    We prefer a PTO plan, but if we still had our leave time separated we would put a cap on sick time. Then we would keep in mind that all scheduled leave (vacations) must be scheduled in advance and APPROVED. We would also keep in mind that the employee is not to be punished for taking FMLA and it would therefore not be a factor in our deciding whether or not to allow the employee to take vacation, though a backlog in the office caused by their absence might.

    All in all, you might cut off your nose to spite your face if you make any changes based on fear that someone will be gone for 12 weeks and then come back and want to use vacation. You might find just tweaking a few of your policies will make the difference.

    One more thing, I think you will find that changing to a PTO plan with caps will reduce alot of your anxiety in these types of situations.

    Good luck!
  • Switching to PTO is out of the question, but I agree it sure would make it easier when designating time off. So I should probably be consistent as to the order in which I designate the leave, i.e. sick, then vacation, then personal. Correct?
  • You should be consistent and require everyone to use leave in the same manner unless you have a legitimate and fair business reason to do otherwise. Otherwise you set yourself up for discrimination claims.
  • We require employees to use their accrued leave while on FMLA; but we don't require them to use it in any particular order. We have maximum accruals for both vacation and sick leave; so an employee nearing the maximum in one bank would probably work down that bank first. When I last took FMLA leave, I split the time among some floating holiday days that I needed to use, administrative leave which I get as FLSA-exempt and vacation leave.
  • The order in which their leave is taken was the big question I had. I have always kept the order consistent, but we have an employee who will be taking leave who has 90 days of sick leave, 20 vacation days and 3 personal days, so I feel she should be able to take her leave using sick leave first. I appreciate your feedback. This FMLA doesn't happen alot for me so I just want to make sure I am doing it correct.
  • Our policy has always been to use sick leave first. If the sick leave runs out then we start charging vacation time. If that runs out before the employee comes back from leave then he won't receive any pay.
  • Make sure to check your state law too. In WI, employees can use ANY kind of accrued time during leave, even if it doesn't qualify under the policy (someone could use sick time when bonding with their child).

    Once on Federal leave only, we force the use of vacation and personal time, but not sick. Most people sub anyway.
  • Thanks for the feedback. I'm an HR of one so your advice really helps me!!:)
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