FMLA and death of parent

Neither FMLA or Oregon's Family Leave cover bereavement. How would you handle this situation:

- Employee requests and is granted FMLA leave to fly to be with her very ill mother.

- The day the employee starts her leave and flies out, her mother passes away.

FMLA doesn't cover bereavement leave. To make matters more complicated, I was in contact with the employee's supervisor and notified the supervisor that the bereavement leave is not covered by the employee. That information was not relayed to the employee so the employee took 3 weeks of leave under the impression she was covered by FMLA.

My feeling at this point is to allow the employee to use sick leave and be paid for the leave given the unique situation and some of the miscommunication.



  • 6 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • First, you can't hold the employee responsible for the miscommuncations. I agree with your final determination.

    If push comes to shove, this employee could probably find someone who could state she needed the leave for mental health, which would qualify for FMLA. That is not a road you want to go down. Just make sure she understands you are making an exception and why, and make sure the supervisor understands enough to do a better job of communicating in the future.
  • There are some areas in which I am considered an effective delegator, and other areas in which I am considered controlling and micromanaging. There are precious few of the latter, thankfully, but FMLA is one of them. In my opinion, too much is on the line to allow someone else to handle the communication. That doesn't mean I don't ever screw up FMLA, but at least my screw-ups are communicated accurately and promptly when I do it myself. :)
  • Paul, I think this is one of those unfortunate situations and you're right, the company should suck it up and pay given the situation/miscommunication.

    Is the employee back from "leave" yet? If not, I'd contact them stating the problem, and let them know they'd be entitled to unpaid personal leave for the remainder of the time. If they've already returned, well, you know what to do :)
  • Yes, they are back. I had a tearful conversation with them which is how I learned they had not been told their leave was not covered. We have decided to allow the employee to use vacation/sick leave for this absence.

    I agree with everything that has been stated above. It was my responsibility to communicate with the employee. I made an assumption that the supervisor was and then I didnt contact the employee myself due to the sensitivity of the situation. So I take responsibility for that.

    I also agree that if push comes to shove, she could go for a mental health leave and I dont think that is necessary. She has had enough stress and pain in her life. I dont want to add to it. My greater concern is that she feels that she has been treated fairly.
  • Paul, I would have done the same with the emplioyee, who acted on good faith that they were indeed on leave. If I took this situation to the CFO and CEO they would agree also, but to make sure the employee kinew this is an exception. It would be bad for employee relations to pull the rug from under her at this point.
  • A+, Paul. That is exactly how organizations view these situations.
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