Holidays Are Almost Here… Are You Ready?

Every year it seems that time goes by faster and faster – and here we are in the final months of 2016! WOW! Very soon we will be surrounded by the sounds, sights and smells of the holidays – from enjoying holiday feasts to hearing familiar seasonal music. For as much joy and excitement that the holiday season brings, it can also be a complicated time for employers to navigate through the issues that often arise concerning leave of absences and holidays. A common scheduling issue that employers often face during the holiday season (typically starting around Labor Day and concluding around New Year’s Day) is an influx in leave of absence requests or use of already allotted leave time that may be covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). It goes without stating that an employer should honor an existing leave entitlement irrespective if used on a holiday, however, it is lawful and justified for an employer to request of the employee recertification for the medical necessity of family and medical leave [if the original leave period has ended and additional leave is requested] or to require the employee to obtain a second opinion from a health care provider [if the employee is taking leave for his own serious health condition] if the employer has “a good faith, objective reason to doubt the validity of the medical certification.” (CalChamber 2016). Instances that may prompt employer doubt may be when medical certification cannot be authenticated.

Most human resource professionals can speak to the ebb and flow of seasonal/holiday-related leave of absence use. However, it is very important to understand and acknowledge that the holiday season can cause employees tremendous stress which may exacerbate or be the cause of a serious health condition, thus triggering or substantiating the need for a leave of absence. Holidays can be a reminder of a loss of a loved one or bring about great financial stress, both which may have an impact on an employee’s health. During this time if an employee requests a leave of absence under the FMLA it is required that he be treated the same as similarly-situated employees and to not be scrutinized for the timing of the request. The FMLA affords employees certain protections, so it is imperative for employers to understand the Act in its entirety. To learn more about the Family and Medical Leave Act, visit: