Company sued for ‘pressuring’ employee on medical leave

A company can be sued if it “pressures” an employee who is on medical leave by repeatedly calling to find out when the employee plans to return to work.

That’s the message of a new case from a federal court in Arkansas.

In that case, a woman took leave from her housekeeping job at a hospital to recover from back surgery. She claimed that while she was out, her immediate supervisor called her every week to ask when she was coming back. In one conversation, she asked if her job was in jeopardy, and the supervisor responded by telling her that she should return as soon as she could.

The court said that the employer could be sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act if its repeated phone calls had a “chilling” effect on the employee’s ability to exercise her rights.

This is a tough situation, because employers have to plan to get work done and need to know when employees will return, and employees are also required to return to work as soon as they no longer need time off for a legitimate reason. In general, both sides should be very careful how they communicate with each other over the extent of medical leave.