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Q&A: Can I Ask Employees Why They Need A Leave?

You may require that the employee provide the qualifying reason he or she is taking leave, and submit an oral or written statement that the employee is unable to work because of this reason, as well as certain documentation, as required by law.

And while you may ask the employee to note any changed circumstances in his or her statement as part of explaining why the employee is unable to work, be careful, lest it increase the likelihood that any decision denying leave based on that information is a prohibited act. The fact that a particular employee, for example, has been teleworking despite having his or her children at home does not mean that the employee cannot now take leave to care for his or her children whose schools are closed for a COVID-19 related reason.

For example, your employee may not have been able to care effectively for the children while teleworking or, perhaps, your employee may have made the decision to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for the children so that the employee’s spouse, who is not eligible for any type of paid leave, could work or telework. These (and other) reasons are legitimate and do not afford a basis for denying paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for a child whose school is closed for a COVID-19 related reason.

However, you can discipline an employee who unlawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave based on misrepresentations, including, for example, to care for the employee’s children when the employee, in fact, has no children and is not taking care of a child.

The Bottom Line: This is just a summary. For your particular situations, be sure to get professional advice.

Posted September 2020 – Copyright 2020

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