Can You Check Work Email While on FMLA?

Can you check work email while on FMLA? This question has been raised since the implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993.

The FMLA grants eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period due to a serious medical condition or to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. However, this act does not explicitly state the employee’s right to check work emails during the leave period.

In this article, we will explore the effects of FMLA on an employee’s work and email communication while on leave.

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Can You Check Work Email While on FMLA?

There are several factors to consider when discussing if an employee can check work email while on FMLA. The following are some important points to remember.

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Understanding FMLA

The FMLA is a federal law that provides job-protected leave for eligible employees for the purpose of attending to a serious health condition, caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition, or for the birth or adoption of a child. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks in a year-long timeframe for FMLA leave, with some exceptions.

An employer must maintain the employee’s health benefits during the leave and restore the employee to their same job or an equivalent position upon their return.

Reasons for Taking FMLA

Employees take FMLA for various reasons, including recovering from a surgery, getting treatment for a serious illness or injury, or caring for a family member. When an employee takes an FMLA leave, they are entitled to take the full leave, and it is illegal for an employer to interfere with the employee’s FMLA rights.

However, taking an FMLA does not mean that an employee can completely disconnect from work. For instance, they may be required to check their email to stay informed about important company matters.

Repercussions of Checking Work Email While on FMLA

While checking work email while on FMLA is not illegal, there are some potential consequences to consider. For example, employees who continue to check their work email while on leave may undermine their rights to FMLA protection.

If an employer believes that an employee’s work outside of FMLA is excessive, they may believe that the employee is not entitled to FMLA protection. Additionally, if an employee’s illness is exacerbated by work-related stress, checking work emails may increase stress levels, which may worsen their medical condition.

It is advisable for workers to communicate with their employer regarding their FMLA leave, including whether they will be checking their work email regularly during their absence from work.

Examples of FMLA Policies Regarding Work Email

When it comes to work email during FMLA leave, different companies and industries have varying policies. While some limit communication, others are more flexible.

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Limitations on Work Communication During FMLA Leave

Some companies have strict policies when it comes to work communication during FMLA leave. These policies may limit contact to urgent matters only, and even then, contact may be kept brief.

The reasoning behind such policies is to ensure that employees are able to fully disconnect and focus on their health and wellbeing during their leave.

Flexibility on Work Communication During FMLA Leave

Other companies may have more flexible policies when it comes to work communication during FMLA leave. They may allow occasional communication and understand that some matters may require the employee’s attention, even while on leave.

However, it’s important to note that this flexibility should not interfere with the employee’s FMLA rights and should not discourage them from taking the leave they need.

Legal Perspectives on Work Communication During FMLA Leave

When it comes to work communication during FMLA leave, legal perspectives may vary. The FMLA law provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, but what happens when they receive work-related calls and emails while on leave?

Court Decisions on Work Communication During FMLA Leave

Court cases related to work communication and FMLA leave have provided some guidance on this issue. Generally, courts find that occasional work-related communications are reasonable and a “professional courtesy” that does not interfere with an employee’s FMLA rights.

However, if the communication is excessive, it could be considered FMLA interference and a violation of an employee’s rights.

Human Resource Management Recommendations on Work Communication During FMLA Leave

While occasional work-related communications are allowed, it is recommended that employers limit contact to urgent matters only. This means that any communication during an employee’s FMLA leave should be kept brief and relate only to urgent matters that cannot wait until the employee returns to work.

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It is also important for employers to inform employees about their rights and to avoid discouraging them from taking FMLA leave.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is generally acceptable for an employer to communicate with an employee on FMLA leave as long as it is limited to urgent matters and kept brief. Courts do not typically consider occasional work-related communications to interfere with FMLA rights, but it’s important to maintain communication boundaries to avoid discouraging the employee from using their leave.

FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, along with maintained group health benefits during the leave. Employers must ensure they balance the employee’s rights and responsibilities effectively to avoid interference with FMLA rights.

References

Lora Turner
 

Lora Turner is an Experienced HR professional worked with the large organizations and holding 15 years of experience dealing with employee benefits. She holds expertise in simplifying the leave for the employee benefits. Contact us at: [email protected]