An employer cannot discipline employees for refusing to work mandatory overtime when they need to take intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for a serious health condition.  

A year ago, a federal court ruled last year that if the employer reduces the employee’s FMLA bank in such situations, it must also increase the FMLA bank when employees work mandatory overtime.  This is the first appeals court to consider the issue.  Most employers do not grant employees additional FMLA leave when they work mandatory overtime, so they should not be reducing the employee’s FMLA bank when an employee needs to be absent from a mandatory overtime assignment for an FMLA-qualifying reason.  

There haven’t been any published cases on the issue in the last year, but it will be interesting to see how this issue evolves over time.  In general, the FMLA provides a bank of 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious health conditions, and/or birth or adoption of a child.  However, this recent decision suggests that it might be possible for employees that work mandatory overtime to earn more than 12 weeks of FMLA during the course of a year.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. The complexity of the law in this area cannot be fully summarized in a blog post or a meme.