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Indefinite leave

An employee has worked for my company for 4 years and is a geat supervisor. Her mother has diabetes and as a result she was granted FMLA leave. She returned to work after the leave and then used all her vacation and sick time to help her mother.

She has asked for indefinte leave –
Should the company grant her request? Please tell me which laws apply to this situation.

Are there any benefits to providing this leave?

There are no benefits to the employer of granting this leave, so we do not recommend it.

Under federal law, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period. This employee has taken several additional  weeks of leave to care for her mother. While we have empathy for this situation, federal law does not require that the employer provide any additional leave.

Many employers would be tempted to approve additional unpaid leave due to this employees excellent performance. However, that is a slippery slope for employers. When an employer provides a benefit to one employee, and not to another, that often leads to a discrimination lawsuit. In this case, suppose the employee is Catholic and is granted the leave. Six months later, a Protestant employee who does a very poor job requests indefinite leave because her son has a minor illness. If the leave is not granted, the Protestant employee probably has a good case for illegal discrimination based on religion. (Or sex, age, race, color, national ancestry, disability…you get the idea.)

Granting this type of leave will also make it more difficult for the employer to fire any employee for absenteeism in the future. The employee who has a hangover every Monday will simply request indefinite leave.

We would like to be able to offer a better solution, but the employer must protect the business first and foremost. The best option here is to allow the employee to resign (preferably with two weeks notice.) If the employee is able to work at some point in the future, and the employer has a suitable job opening, they may consider rehiring her.  


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This entry was posted on Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 8:02 am and is filed under
Human Resources Management.
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