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Can I Make an Employee Take a Leave of Absence?

Employers have many responsibilities and need to handle the day-to-day tasks in a way that will garner a profit for the company. One of the primary requirements is to oversee the workforce. Employers need to be in control of their workforce and must be able to schedule workers as necessary. Whether a worker needs to be absent for medical reasons or when the company must reduce the workforce for a period of time, an employer may need to give a worker a leave of absence.

What is a Leave of Absence?

A leave of absence is time that an employer allows an employee to have time off work while holding their position. A leave of absence is often requested by an employee because of a particular need. The law allows most workers to take time off for family matters. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for up to 12 weeks of time off per year for family reasons. These reasons include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for an immediate family member who is ill, receiving medical care for a serious health issue, or for emergencies with a family member in the Armed Forces, National Guard, or Reserves.

What are an Employer’s Responsibilities in FMLA?

Employers have some responsibilities to employees who require FMLA. An employer must generally allow FMLA when the employee requests it for a valid reason. The employer must allow up to 12 weeks of time off. The company does not have a requirement to pay the worker for time off. The employer must advise employees of the FMLA and provide them with time off as needed. The employer may request medical documentation from the employee to prove the need for leave. Employers must follow the laws as part of the FMLA.

At-Will Employment in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is an “at-will” employment state. This means that generally, an employer and employee can terminate their relationship at any time and without reason. An employer can terminate an employee at any time as long as it is done legally. Sometimes an employer needs to reduce the workforce and may terminate, lay off, or give employees a leave of absence. Regardless of what it is called, the employer is under no real obligation to bring an employee back or to hold a particular job for an employee. The exception is when an employee meets the criteria for FMLA. An employer may have their own policies in place regarding leave of absence for reasons other than FMLA.

What Happens When an Employee Needs FMLA Time?

An employee may request time off for medical reasons or other reasons that meet the criteria of FMLA. An employer has the obligation to let the employee know that they can utilize FMLA for their needs. The laws regarding FMLA protect employees from losing their jobs as long as they follow the guidelines as part of the law. Employers must give a person returning from FMLA their original job or the equivalent.

Employee management can be challenging, and it is important to understand the laws that govern employment. To learn more about leave of absence and FMLA, contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online for a consultation.

Published December 15, 2022
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