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Can an employee be forced to take a full unpaid day off instead of covering for partial day FMLA?

An employee needs to leave early from their shift. Those hours will be covered by FMLA. Can the employee be requested to take the full day off unpaid to make it easier to cover the hours, or must the employer cover the requested hours?

As an employer, you cannot penalize a worker for taking time off under FMLA — including depriving the employee of time that he or she would otherwise work. This means you must allow an employee to use FMLA intermittently, for a few hours here and there, if that is what the employee needs. You cannot require that FMLA be taken only in full-day increments simply for your own convenience. Doing so is depriving the employee of FMLA hours she would otherwise be entitled to — and depriving the employee of paid work she is entitled to.

There are a few exceptions, but they do not apply to employers in general industry. For example, the US Department of Labor has ruled that when a flight attendant is scheduled for an 8-hour international flight, she cannot take FMLA for the first 4 hours of the flight and then work the second 4 hours of the flight, simply because there is no practical way to get her to a plane that is in mid-air over the ocean. However, this is a very unusual situation. Unless your company is an airline, you need to make arrangements to cover this partial shift.

You can suggest that the employee might like to take the full day off, unpaid, rather than work 6 hours and take 2 hours of FMLA. However, eve if the employee agrees, you should count this only as 2 hours of FMLA. And, if the employee does not agree, you need to allow her to work a partial day and find a way to cope with her leaving early.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2011 at 6:09 am and is filed under
Attendance Management, Human Resources Management.
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