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By: Joyce Mocek
The Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division issued a new opinion letter on an employer’s no-fault attendance policy which effectively froze an employee’s attendance points that had accrued prior to taking the FMLA leave. The DOL maintained that the no-fault attendance policy did not violate the FMLA if it was applied in a non-discriminatory manner, and applied consistently with other types of leave.
The FMLA prohibits employers from “interfering with, restraining, or denying” an employee’s exercise of FMLA rights, and prohibits employers from “discriminating or retaliating against an employee.. for having exercised or attempted to exercise FMLA rights.” 29 CFR 825.220. In its opinion letter, the DOL noted that employees cannot accrue points for taking FMLA leave under a no-fault attendance policy. Further, the FMLA does not entitle an employee to superior benefits simply because they take FMLA leave.
In the opinion letter, the DOL advised that since the employee’s number of accrued points remained frozen during the FMLA leave the employee neither lost a benefit that accrued prior to taking the leave, nor accrued any additional benefit which he or she would not have been otherwise entitled. The DOL thus advised that this policy would not violate the FMLA. However, the DOL noted that if the employer counted other types of leave (i.e. active service) under its no-fault policy, then the employer may be discriminating against employees that take FMLA leave as this inconsistency would violate the FMLA.
Employers should be mindful of this recent DOL opinion letter guidance and review their no-fault attendance policy to ensure compliance and consistency with other leave policies.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Joyce Mocek at [email protected].