Q: We have an employee on his third year of FMLA and he takes intermittent leave for treatments and doctors appointments. We are having to pay his department staff overtime to compensate for his hours not worked. How can we address this, if at all?
A: The Transfer Option – Companies can temporarily transfer an employee on intermittent leave, to minimize the effect of that person’s absence on the overall operation. The temporary position doesn’t need to be equivalent to the original job – but the pay and benefits must remain the same.
And, of course, the employee must be given his old job – or its equivalent – when the intermittent leave period’s over.
Example: The new position would lengthen or increase the cost of the employee’s commute.
Such transfers need to be handled in such a way as to avoid looking like the employer is trying to discourage the employee from taking intermittent leave – or worse yet, is being punished for having done so.
Bottom Line: The move can’t be made if the transfer “adversely affects” the individual. Although FMLA is certainly an employee-friendly statute, employers do have some rights when it comes to scheduling intermittent leave. For instance, employees are required to consult with their employers about setting up medical treatments on a schedule that minimizes impact on operations. Of course, the arrangement has to be approved by the healthcare provider. But if an employee fails to consult with HR before scheduling treatment, the law allows employers to require the worker to go back to the provider and discuss alternate arrangements.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking an employee aside and saying, “I know you’ve got to go to physical therapy. But these 10 o’clock appointments are really affecting work flow. Could you see about scheduling them for after work hours?”