The availability of electronic devices permits employees to work anywhere, any time. The convenience and flexibility are generally welcomed by employees wishing to balance work and home responsibilities. However, when does the overlap of work/life balance create a problem? When it involves working during FMLA leave.
A pregnant employee, Tondalaya Evans, worked for the company, Books-a-Million, and was expecting a baby on September 1. Tondalaya was the payroll manager and was in the process of implementing a new payroll system, which had been delayed until November. She requested FMLA for the birth of her child. Books-a-Million told her she would not be on leave, but rather would be working while on her maternity leave, and that she had no other choice, because the payroll system was due to “go-live.” Ms. Evans had her child on August 30, and began working full time from home on September 1. Even though, she was being paid her full wage, she was being denied the time off.
Tondalaya later returned to work, and found that she had been transferred to another position. She was not agreeable with the change, quit her job, and sued in part for FMLA interference. The court found that the company had violated the FMLA by denying her a benefit (FMLA leave, with no work being performed) for which she was entitled. The company argued, to no avail, that she was being paid to work, and they were not in violation of FMLA.
The takeaway is that employees are entitled to FMLA for the purpose of being completely excused from work while they take care of a serious health condition of their own or an approved family member, without the worries of performing or losing their job. Requiring or forcing an employee to work when eligible for FMLA can cause neither their work nor the reason for the leave to be given full attention. Even if an employer offers to pay the employee, it is still undermining the purpose of the FMLA and is illegal.
Source: Hyman, Jon. “Do Not Force Employees to Work During FMLA Leave.” Workforce. Available here.