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Employee Leaving to care for a Parent

As an employer when does the employees obligation to us end? We are a small business that has an employee that has left on leave to care for her mother. She was out for a week and used up all vacation time and then provided us with a note via a text picture saying she needed to care for her ill mother. She was to return to work today. She now text us saying she has been overwhelmed and stressed and will be out another 2-3 weeks. She has not provided us an actual original Dr. note other than a text message. She has not communicated with our office other than a few random text messages. We have repeatedly asked for her to come in to talk about her leave and she has not come in. She continues to go to school while she is caring for her mother but has not made the time to come in to the office that is down the street from her school. She is the only full time employee in that department. We need to do something to keep it moving our business is now at stake. At what point has she abandoned her employment? What should we do?

An employer not bound by federal or state leave laws is able to adopt a personal leave policy of its choosing. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and most state leave regulations cover employers with at least fifty employees. Thus, as a small business, it is up to you to determine when the employee’s entitlement to employment ceases.

It seems like you have been more than accommodating to this employee. Consider how similarly situated employees have been treated in the past. Since it appears a leave of absence policy doesn’t exist, it’s important to treat this employee in the same manner as other employees have been treated with similar situations. If there is no applicable past practice, termination may be warranted.

It’s advisable to send the employee a certified letter informing her that she must contact you by a specific date to discuss her leave or her employment will be terminated for job abandonment. Feel free to include a statement regarding the numerous attempts made to communicate with her and the amount of leave time she’s already taken. If the employee contacts you as requested set a definitive date on which she must return to work or be terminated.

Remember to document all communication with the employee.

Going forward, consider adopting a leave of absence policy. Even a small employer will benefit from having a clear policy fairly applied to all employees. In the policy include eligibility guidelines, leave duration, request procedures, required documentation, and how other benefits such as paid time off or health insurance will be affected while on leave.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 7:45 pm and is filed under
Attendance Management, Benefits, Human Resources Management.
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