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Officer's FMLA rights obstructed by employer, says superior court

An employee's right to leave under the Family Medical Leave Act has been a hot topic on this blog over the past few weeks; and though the following example did not occur here in Texas, it highlights some of the complications that can arise with FMLA, in addition to pointing out that many employers (even government employers) can fail to understand the FMLA rules.

A police officer who has a son that suffers from sickle-cell anemia was reprimanded for using FMLA leave to help his son -- who often suffers from sudden and severe medical conditions as a result of the blood disease.

The case happened in 2010, 20 years after the officer originally joined the force as a corrections officer in a New Jersey county. Clearly a loyal person with a difficult situation to deal with, the officer was accused of abusing his sick leave in 2010. Part of the New Jersey county's policy was to look over past sick leave and take note of people who might be abusing it. Those individuals would essentially be placed on six months of probation, where their sick leave required a doctor's note.

This officer was identified as a potential abuser, but his sick days were being used to help his son. His son's doctors refused to give him a doctor's note; and every legal challenge the officer and his union filed against the county fell flat -- until it finally reached the Superior Court of New Jersey.

The officer was actually using family intermittent leave under the FMLA, which the Superior Court said was an appropriate use of the officer's leave time. No improprieties or abuse had been performed by the officer when he took that leave.

Source: HR.BLR.com, "Did NJ employer interfere with intermittent family leave rights?," May 8, 2013

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