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New ruling could affect how FMLA applies to rotational employees

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2021 | Family And Medical Leave Act (fmla)

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides employee with up to 12 consecutive weeks of leave in any year. Unfortunately, rotational employees do not always benefit the same as other employees – particularly, it seems, after a recent court ruling.

Instead of working every week, rotational employees work for seven days straight, followed by seven days off. This proves problematic when employees want to take 12 consecutive weeks of leave, because they are only scheduled to work for 6 of those weeks.

Consequently, it becomes unclear whether rotational employees must take 12 consecutive weeks of leave, or if they are entitled to take off 12 weeks from work, which would really amount to 24 consecutive weeks when you include the weeks that they are not scheduled to work.

The state of Alaska ultimately chose the former interpretation. Thus, that state’s agencies only provided its employees with 12 consecutive weeks of leave, even if they were only scheduled to work for 6 weeks.

The lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Labor sued the state under the FMLA, seeking to bar the state from calculating the leave in this way and recover damages on behalf of rotational employees.

The U.S. District Court seated in the state ruled in favor of the Department of Labor and rotational employees. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision after finding that Congress did not intend for the act to be interpreted in this way.

While this decision is unfavorable for rotational employees, it is important to understand that the ruling is currently only binding within that circuit. However, it is likely instructive for others on a similar question of law and would certainly be cited in any discussion of a similar case.. With this recent decision, rotational employees with questions about their rights under the FMLA may want to consult with an experienced employment law attorney.


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