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Requiring Training and In-services While Employees on LOA

Our company has recently implemented a new training/in-services policy. Regardless if an Associate is on scheduled time off or LOA, education/training required of their position and professional obligations must be completed within the compliance requirements set by company. My concern is the requirement of employees on an approved medical LOA/FMLA. Some of the deadlines are less than 30 days. Is this legal? Thank you and Happy New Year!

The federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. Employers are prohibited from interfering with an employee’s rights under the law.

Generally, employees on FMLA leave should be completely relieved of their duties while on leave. Occasional contact for the purpose of passing on institutional knowledge is permitted. However, asking or requiring employees to perform work duties while on leave may constitute illegal interference of their FMLA rights.

Attending company mandated trainings is considered work duties and shouldn’t be required of employees on FMLA leave. Personal leaves of absence not mandated by state/federal regulations are at the discretion of the employer. Still, the purpose of a LOA is for an employee to tend to personal matters, medical or non-medical, while retaining their job. Employees shouldn’t be expected to attend company meetings/trainings while on leave.

The importance of employees maintaining their education or training requirements needed for their position or professional credentials depends on their job. For example, prohibiting an EMT from returning to full work capacity until his CPR credentials are up to date is feasible while restricting an office worker from returning to work until a company required Excel class is completed is unjustified.

It may be better wording to state that employees are responsible to ensure the education/training requirements of their position are maintained as necessary and simply leave out the FMLA/LOA part. Consider including a statement to the effect that employees are expected to make every effort to ensure education/training requirements are up to date prior to scheduled time off/LOAs; employees who take unexpected LOAs must ensure such requirements are up to date as soon as practically possible.

Of course, the nature of the position and any federal/state credentialing requirements may affect an employee’s ability to return to work. But, employees should be granted some leniency with completing company only requirements.

HTH! Happy New Year!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017 at 1:59 pm and is filed under
Labor Laws.
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