Help! FMLA question--anyone have knowledge or experience?

I have a problem. It’s Friday and the labor board is closed until Monday.

I need to know if it’s just dirty or actually unlawful under the protection of the FMLA for an employer to change a previously arranged schedule that was set in place specifically so the employee (currently under the FMLA) could care for a chronically ill family member. The employee had spoken with his supervisor about the need for such a schedule and had given his availability a while back. He had (almost) unlimited weekend availability and could work second shifts Monday through Friday. He was only limited in that he could not work first shift (or overlap first shift) because of the schedule of the other primary caregiver. So he was not extremely restrictive in his availability.

The employer had said (and up until now complied) that the schedule was no problem at all. The employee had even been working a little outside his availability so as not to inconvenience everyone else in the department (the other caregiver was leaving work early two-three days per week so he could be to work at the pre-FMLA scheduled time.) Suddenly, today, the employer posted next week’s schedule (and this would be the schedule from that point forward) and the employee was scheduled to work at least three days during the week that conflicted completely with his availability. The employer’s first day that conflicted is Sunday–less than two days notice. When the employee indicated that he could not work those times (assuming it was just an oversight or possibly even a one-time thing–which might could be worked around), the employer indicated that he would have to work it–he had no choice.

It should also be mentioned that the employee had been working slighty over his availability for the past few weeks because another employee was dismissed and a replacement had not been found. However, a new employee has been hired and trained and was happy to work the exact shift vacated by the previous employee so a changing schedule due to a new employee was not a mitigating factor.

Any help? Is this just a sucky, stupid thing the company did or is it actually in violation of the FMLA? Opinions are welcome but I’d really like to have some factual info too.

There is no mention of how long your friend has already been on FMLA. My understanding is that FMLA is limited to 90 scheduled work days per calandar year. Two of my staff use FMLA days on an as needed basis, and I have to keep track of which days are FMLA days and which ones aren’t. Neither one has come close to the 90 day mark. I will check with HR Monday morning.

Why don’t they ask to transfer to a position on the second shift? Or better yet, seek employment at a family friendly company?

It’s definitely rotten of the company to suddenly change your friends schedule. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act only requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. It doesn’t require that work schedules be changed to accomodate caregiving.