Claremore Daily Progress

January 7, 2014

FMLA prompts discussion by commissioners

Salesha Wilken
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE —

The Rogers County Commissioners briefly discussed human resource procedures Monday for employees that need to take a leave of absence.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is federally mandated and county employees are offered protection under the law.  
The discussion arose from a situation where a county employee was on medical leave and Rogers County Court Clerk Kim Henry sought information on how to handle the situation.
Henry told the board she had been communicating through emails, but wanted to insure her employee would continue to receive a paycheck after the FMLA time period had expired.
The FMLA leave, if approved, for qualified employees can be used for several reasons, including the birth of a child or for serious medical conditions. The law guarantees the employee will return to the same or “identical” job after the 12-week absence.
“The FMLA only requires unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect, or the employer to require the employee, to use accrued paid vacation leave, paid sick or family leave for some or all of the FMLA leave period,” according to the United State Department of Labor.
Human Resource Director Jenny Bentley said the leave is designed as an “umbrella” to protect employees.
She requested elected officials notify her when a situation occurs in order to get employees covered under the protection.
Henry said she has notified Bentley of the issue and simply requested information on how the employee would be paid after the leave expired. 
Her employee has accrued vacation, sick and other paid leave, which will extend beyond the 12 weeks, according to Henry.
“I was instructed through email they go on leave without pay,” Henry said.
“Whatever time they have they will get,” Bentley said.
The employee will not accrue additional personal time or vacation time while on leave, Bentley said. “Your role is to turn in time sheets for them.” 
Although the paid vacation, compensatory or sick time can be used during the FMLA period the time off runs concurrently, according to Bentley.
“I can help them determine if it is FMLA or not,” Bentley said.
County employees are permitted to earn compensatory time off in lieu of overtime payments, according to the employee handbook.
Henry’s employee has more than 480 hours of combined time off and she wanted to insure the worker would be allowed to use it if necessary.
Commissioner Dan DeLozier said the issue can be confusing and recommends elected officials take one of the courses offered by Oklahoma State University to better understand the law.
Assistant District Attorney David Iski said from the elected officials perspective it is important to understand the exposure to the county.
“It is something we should all be concerned about, there are claims that can be brought against the county for discrimination etc.,” Iski said. “This is a two-fold thing to protect the employee and the county.”