Published on March 1st, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover
“ The cure for anger is delay.”
THREE BRIEF ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: (1) Aquilino was a well known agricultural economist employed by an industry trade organization in Washington, D.C. His work visa was sponsored by his employer, and by the terms of his visa, if he was no longer employed by his employer, he and his family would have to return to their home country within ten (10) days. After a new Executive Director was hired who did not seem to be a “fan” of his, Aquilino had concerns that his position was insecure. Losing his job would entail Aquilino and his family having to depart the U.S. almost immediately. Aquilino and his family, however, wanted to remain in the Washington, D.C. area. Aquilino needed to find a new position before he might be laid off. He just needed some time.
(2) Margaret was a bond analyst for a large international bank. Over the years she had been awarded a significant amount of stock options. Each year, a large number of options vested. However, if she lost her position she would no longer be eligible for stock option vesting. In just six weeks, a very large number of stock options would vest. However, after receiving a poor review, she was concerned she might be let go before they vested. Margaret needed to remain employed for another six weeks. She just needed some time.
(3) Kevin and his wife had made all arrangements to adopt a child, which was scheduled to take place in about sixty days. At work, without warning, Kevin was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (sometimes called a “PIP”), which contained a warning that, unless his performance improved “completely” in just 30 days, he could expect to be terminated. The problem was this: if he was no longer employed, the adoption process would come to an immediate halt. Kevin just needed to remain employed for 60 days, in order to complete the adoption process. He just needed some time.
Aquilino, Margaret and Kevin all managed to get the extended time on the job that each needed, and so all were able to navigate to get what they wanted, by making an honest application to each of their employers for a Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave of absence. FMLA provides employees in companies with 50 or more employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to a medical or emotional difficulty, injury or illness, and the right to return to their position afterward. The law has widespread applicability, great flexibility, and very significant effectiveness – especially when you “just need some time.”
Aquilino had a teenage daughter with an eating disorder. Margaret had a mother who was in need of assisted living, but was living with Margaret while they sought a good home for her. Kevin’s wife was so nervous about losing out on the possibility of becoming an adoptive mother that she was having nightmares and difficulty eating. Aquilino, Margaret and Kevin each spoke to their family members’ therapists, doctors and health care providers, who in each case were willing to certify that each of their respective loved ones would benefit by having him or her spend more time with their loved one.
By extending his employment for 12 weeks, Aquilino got a new job, and his family was therefore able to remain in the Washington, D.C. area. By extending her employment, Margaret got the vesting of her stock options she sought. By extending his employment, Kevin and his wife got their dream come true: a baby son.
LESSON TO LEARN: You should not underestimate the utility of the FMLA leave of absence in your own work life or its potential to help you and achieve your own personal and workplace-related goals.
If you ever have a need to “e-x-t-e-n-d” your employment, and either you or a family member have a medical or emotional difficulty that would be helped by your having time off, please consider the many potential benefits of the FMLA law.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you need up to three months’ extension of employment, don’t hesitate to see if you might be entitled to a FMLA leave of absence. A few thoughts to help you if you do:
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