Rudolph has been suffering from depression related to teasing by all the other reindeer (who laugh and call him names). On December 24th he files FMLA paperwork, along with a completed Certificate of Health Care Provider Form, which states that he will be unable to return to work for six weeks. Will Rudolph’s FMLA leave be approved?
No, unfortunately for poor Rudolph (who used to laugh and play – before depression set in), the reindeer only work one night a year. Therefore, Rudolph has not accrued the required 1250 annual work hours necessary to qualify for FMLA protection.
On the flip side, Rudolph’s employer (North Pole, Inc.) should begin the interactive process. If Rudolph’s depression is qualified under the ADAAA, he may be able to take his leave as an accommodation.
Jingle, Santa’s head elf and veteran toymaker, was diagnosed in November with a repetitive stress injury in his right wrist, due to long hours spent on the assembly line. Jingle requests and is granted FMLA leave to recover, and his doctor indicated that he’ll be able to return to work on December 20th, just in time for the final push on the toy line. Unfortunately Jingle’s co-workers find several sELFies of Jingle paddle boarding in Fiji posted on Facebook and share the link with management. The big guy, Santa, orders an investigation and Jingle is terminated for FMLA abuse. With his only employment prospects being life as an Elf on the Shelf, Jingle sues for interference with his FMLA rights and retaliation. Who will prevail?
Employers should always be cautious when it comes to terminating an employee on a job protected leave, however, in this case North Pole, Inc. took the time to conduct a thorough investigation and allowed Jingle to offer an explanation of his actions. Based on the pictures of Jingle using his wrist to paddle board, Santa and his team had an honest belief that he was committing fraud.
Santa has been working hard all year, checking the naughty/nice list, overseeing toy operations and mucking out stalls in the reindeer barn. On December 20th, Santa slips on some spilled wassail punch while attending a holiday party and strains his lower back (ICD-10-CM S39.012A). On December 23rd, Santa requests FMLA leave. Will all the children be disappointed this year?
North Pole, Inc. grants Santa’s leave, but also notifies Santa that if he does not return to work prior to December 24th, he will not be reinstated in his job, under the “Key” Employee Exception. Santa responds by retaining a lawyer and filing an FMLA interference suit. The elves go out on strike in support of Santa’s case. The reindeer pool their money and charter a jet to the Bahamas. Things are looking very bleak for holiday deliveries. Have a solution? Enter your thoughts in the comment field below and we’ll post the top three, along with our recommendations.