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As the East Coast continues to clean up from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, businesses are looking to get back up and running. However, as businesses and their employees continue to clean up from the storm, questions are being raised about the amount of time off that employers must give their workers as they regroup from the storm.
Specifically, employers may be obligated to grant time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Harley Storrings, a partner and labor and employment attorney with Arnstein & Lehr, offers the following advice to businesses on how to handle FMLA claims in the aftermath of a storm like Hurricane Sandy.
- The FMLA does not require employees be given time off to attend to matters unrelated to a "serious health condition." Thus, making home repairs or buying supplies will generally not qualify for FMLA leave.
- However, FMLA leave is appropriate when (1) the employee suffers an illness or injury that meets the definition of a "serious health condition"; or (2) the employee is required to care for a spouse, parent or child with a "serious health condition."
- When leave is requested, the employer should promptly determine (1) whether the employee is eligible for FMLA leave, and if so, (2) whether the employee needs to provide additional information to support the request (including but not limited to, medical certification).
- Where an employer "has reason to doubt the validity of a medical certification" provided, it may, at its own expense, seek a second opinion from another health care provider.