As the industry continues its steady recovery, automakers and suppliers have been running on all cylinders, with some plants operating 6 or 7 three day shifts per week. This increased workload makes it all the more important to have a full complement of employees to cover shifts. However, employees’ ability to take intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has created unique challenges for companies.
Under the FMLA (and in some cases, state leave laws) eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for their own or a family member’s serious health condition and to bond with a new or adopted child, as well as for certain military exigencies. Leave may be taken for certain periods, such as for a scheduled surgery, but also may be taken on an intermittent basis for unforeseeable reasons. ”Shortened workweek” is another form of intermittent FMLA leave and is used when an employee has medical restrictions that limit his or her ability to work all scheduled hours, including overtime.
Some employees are also submitting medical certification forms from their health care providers that limit these employees from working more than a certain number of hours per week, such as 40 or 45 hours. Increased intermittent FMLA leave requests can create employee management nightmares. Employees may call off of work with little notice, causing manpower shortages that are often filled with higher cost temporary staffing employees who are unfamiliar with the supplier’s operations. While this might otherwise be manageable, it is particularly difficult when certain employees appear to be abusing FMLA leave to enjoy days off when the plant is operating at full throttle.
Companies should consider taking the following actions to help minimize the risk of FMLA abuse: