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Ask the Hotline | Transferring an Employee on FMLA Leave

April 10, 2018
We have an employee out on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave on an intermittent basis for medical appointments and it is proving quite disruptive to our schedule. Is there a way to move him to another job for the duration of his leave and pay him at the established (lower) rate for that alternative position? 
The U.S. Department of Labor’s FMLA-related Web site includes an FAQ section that addresses numerous compliance aspects of the FMLA: 
Employees needing intermittent/reduced schedule leave for foreseeable medical treatments must work with their employers to schedule the leave so as not disrupt the employer’s operations, subject to the approval of the employee’s health-care provider. In such cases, the employer may transfer the employee temporarily to an alternative job - with equivalent pay and benefits - that accommodate recurring periods of leave better than the employee’s regular job.
The temporary position to which the employee is transferred may have different duties. That said, an employer may not transfer an employee to discourage the employee from taking leave. Practices prohibited by the FMLA include:
  • Assigning a white-collar employee to perform a laborer's work.
  • Requiring an employee who works the day shift to be reassigned to the graveyard shift.
  • Assigning an employee who works at a headquarters facility to a facility that is a significant distance away from headquarters.
While things like “significant distance” may be open to interpretation, it makes sense to evaluate the distance prior to transferring an employee on FMLA. When the employee is able to return to work at his normal position, he must be restored to that or a similar position with the same rate of pay.
The Department of Labor Web site offers information including Fact Sheets, a link to the regulations, posters, FAQs, forms, and interpretative guidance.   
Please contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277 if you have any questions about this or any other HR-related matter.
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