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FAQ: More FMLA Topics - Paid Leave, Overtime, and Bonuses

Below are some answers to common questions about Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations that became effective on January 16, 2009.

Q. Can my FMLA leave be counted against me for my bonus?

A. Under the regulations, an employer may deny a bonus that is based upon achieving a goal, such as hours worked, products sold or perfect attendance, to an employee who takes FMLA leave (and thus does not achieve the goal) as long as it treats employees taking FMLA leave the same as employees taking non-FMLA leave. For example, if an employer does not deny a perfect attendance bonus to employees using vacation leave, the employer may not deny the bonus to an employee who used vacation leave for a FMLA-qualifying reason.

Example:

Sasha uses ten days of FMLA leave during the quarter for surgery. Sasha substitutes paid vacation leave for her entire FMLA absence. Under Sasha's employer's quarterly attendance bonus policy, employees who use vacation leave are not disqualified from the bonus but employees who take unpaid leave are disqualified. Sasha's employer must treat her the same way it would treat an employee using vacation leave for a non-FMLA reason and give Sasha the attendance bonus.

Q. My medical condition limits me to a 40 hour workweek but my employer has assigned me to work eight hours of overtime in a week. Can I take FMLA leave for the overtime?

A. Yes. Employees with proper medical certifications may use FMLA leave in lieu of working required overtime hours. The regulations clarify that the hours that an employee would have been required to work but for the taking of FMLA leave can be counted against the employee's FMLA entitlement. Employers must select employees for required overtime in a manner that does not discriminate against workers who need to use FMLA leave.

Q. Can I use my paid leave as FMLA leave?

A. Under the regulations, an employee may choose to substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave if the employee complies with the terms and conditions of the employer's applicable paid leave policy. The regulations also clarify that substituting paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave means that the two types of leave run concurrently, with the employee receiving pay pursuant to the paid leave policy and receiving protection for the leave under the FMLA. If the employee does not choose to substitute applicable accrued paid leave, the employer may require the employee to do so.

Example:

Neila needs to take two hours of FMLA leave for a treatment appointment for her serious health condition. Neila would like to substitute paid sick leave for her absence, but her employer's sick policy only permits employees to take sick leave in full days. Neila may either choose to comply with her employer's sick leave policy by taking a full day of sick leave for her doctor's appointment (in which case she will use a full day of FMLA leave), or she may ask her employer to waive the requirement that sick leave be used in full day increments and permit her to use two hours of sick leave for her FMLA absence. Neila can also take unpaid FMLA leave for the two hours.

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