Use of leave credits and the FMLA
Repa v. Roadway Express, Inc. USCA, 7th Circuit, 477 F.3d 938
Alice M. Repa complained that her employer, Roadway Express, Inc., required her to use her sick and vacation leave accruals while she was on FMLA leave although she was simultaneously receiving short-term disability benefit – i.e., paid leave - under Roadway’s disability plan.
The Circuit Court sustained a federal district court’s ruling that Roadway had violated the FMLA by requiring Repa to charge her FMLA-absence to her leave accruals. The lower court held that absence from work under a temporary disability benefit plan is not subject to a provision in the FMLA that allows employers to require employees to substitute paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave.
The decision states that “the purpose of the FMLA is, in part, “to entitle employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons . . . in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers.” Although the employer is not required to pay an employee while the employee is on FMLA leave, [see 29 U.S.C. §2612(c)], the “employee may elect, or an employer may require the employee, to substitute any of the accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave, or family leave of the employee for [FMLA] leave provided” [see 29 U.S.C. § 2612(d)(2)].*
In this instance, said the court, short-term disability leave pursuant to Roadways’ temporary disability benefit plan was not unpaid leave. Accordingly, the FMLA provision allowing the employer to require the employee to substitute paid leave for unpaid FMLA absences was inapplicable.
In addition, the decision noted that the employer may designate the short-term disability leave as FMLA leave and count the disability leave as running concurrently for purposes of both the benefit plan and the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. Further, said the court, “If the requirements to qualify for payments pursuant to the employer’s temporary disability plan are more stringent than those of FMLA, the employee must meet the more stringent requirements of the plan, or may choose not to meet the requirements of the plan and instead receive no payments.”
For the full text of the decision, go to:
* The Circuit Court noted that Department of Labor regulations [29 C.F.R. §825.207(d)(1)] places certain limitations with respect to the application of this provision and indicated that disability leave for the birth of a child would be considered “FMLA leave for a serious health condition” and counted in the 12 weeks of leave permitted under FMLA.
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