A week doesn’t go by without a client asking me whether they can discipline an employee for exceeding the number of absences allowed on their FMLA medical certification. The fact pattern usually goes something like this:

Johnny is an assemblyman at your 200-employee facility. He assembles johnson rods. He also has a chronic bad

Sick-note.jpgOne of the biggest headaches for employers when administering FMLA leave is how to deal with the employee who exceeds the frequency or duration identified on the employee’s medical certification. Nearly all of these situations involve intermittent leave, which is the type of leave most frequently abused by employees.

Take, for example, Joe, who suffers

An employee enrolled in an addiction treatment program need not be under a doctor’s care or actually staying at a rehab institution to qualify for FMLA leave, according to a federal court in Texas.  Picarazzi v. John Crane, Inc. (pdf)

The Facts

Plaintiff Perry Picarazzi, a customer service representative for John Crane, Inc.(JCI), had a history of alcoholism, and his alcohol problems clearly led to absenteeism problems in March 2008.  As a result, he was issued a number of “points” under JCI’s attendance policies, which led to progressive discipline.  However, JCI failed to issue this course of discipline until the day it also issued a final warning to Picarazzi, which occurred mere days before his termination in late June 2008.


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All too often, employers are criticized for blunders they could have avoided when taking disciplinary action against an employee with a medical condition.  However, a recent federal appellate court decision provides a glowing example of how an employer got it right when it disciplined an employee upon her return from leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Last month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a drug company did not violate the FMLA when it demoted a top-level executive upon her return from maternity leave for performance deficiencies unrelated to her FMLA leave.  Schaaf v. SmithKline Beecham Corp. d/b/a GlaxoSmithKline (pdf).


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