Counting the Days: Proper Calculation of FMLA Leave When a Holiday Falls Within that Period of Absence

The Family and Medical Leave Act — enacted 30 years ago — represents an important benefit to workers. The law allows you to tend to essential personal and family matters without fear that your employer will fire you while you’re gone. Whether you’re a worker who has encountered this type of illegal conduct or an employer seeking to ensure full FMLA compliance, it is wise to get knowledgeable answers from an experienced Atlanta FMLA lawyer to all your questions.

With the FMLA, one of the more technical compliance issues regards how an employer should calculate the duration of a worker’s leave. Miscalculations can cost workers valuable time off from work and can cost an employer in terms of fines or other punishments for engaging in illegal conduct.

When calculating the duration of an FMLA leave, employers and employees can look to the law, to the applicable regulations, and also to FMLA-related “opinion letters” the U.S. Department of Labor issues, one of which came down just a few weeks ago.

These letters are the department’s response to questions it received and reflect the department’s opinion on the proper interpretation of employment-related laws and regulations. While the department’s opinion letters do not carry the force of law or regulation, they do represent an important insight into how the department approaches enforcing the laws and regulations under its purview.

In one letter from late May, the department responded to an employer concerned about properly calculating FMLA leave when that worker’s absence overlapped with a company holiday. As is true of many legal matters, the answer was… “It depends.”

Whole-Week Absences Versus Partial Weeks of Leave

If a worker has obtained FMLA leave covering an entire work week, then an employer-recognized holiday functionally has no effect; it still counts as one week of FMLA leave. Say an employee obtains FMLA leave for all of Thanksgiving week and her employer declares Thanksgiving Day and the day after as company holidays. Her period of FMLA leave is one week, not 3/5 of a week, despite the presence of the Thanksgiving holiday.

On the other hand, if a worker obtained only a partial week of FMLA leave, then the approach changes. If, for example, a worker’s FMLA leave covered the last four days of Thanksgiving week and his employer recognized Thanksgiving Day and the day after as company holidays, then he used only 2/5 of a week of FMLA leave, not 4/5.

When the employer’s business is open (and a worker is scheduled to work) on a holiday, those facts change the nature of the calculation. Consider the latter example above, except assume that the employer was not closed on either Thanksgiving Day or “Black Friday,” and that the employee seeking FMLA was scheduled to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. In that scenario, the period of FMLA leave used is 4/5 of a week, not 2/5.

As these examples illustrate, there’s a lot of intricacy and nuance related to FMLA compliance. That is just one of many reasons why it pays to get reliable answers to your FMLA questions from knowledgeable legal pros. The Atlanta FMLA leave attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert have accumulated many years of experience doing exactly that. Contact us through this website or at 877-986-5529 to schedule a consultation today to get the sound advice you need.

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