Can You Go on Vacation While on FMLA?

Can You Go on Vacation While on FMLA?

FMLA and vacation time allow an employee to take time off work, but the two types of time off are granted for different reasons. Most employees receive a set number of vacation days as part of their employee benefits. As long as your request for time off is approved, you can spend your vacation however you choose.

FMLA isn’t so simple. Short for Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA is a federal labor law that allows employees to take a leave of absence from work for medical considerations or family reasons. Employees on FMLA leave aren’t typically paid for their time off, but their position is protected until they return.

Can you go on vacation while on FMLA leave? The answer is: It depends. Whether you can take vacation time on top of FMLA can be complicated. Factors like your employer’s vacation and FMLA policies and the reasons for your medical leave impact whether you can request vacation time while on FMLA leave.

The best policy is to understand your employer’s policies and communicate clearly when requesting vacation on top of FMLA. And if you think your employer is violating laws or your rights, always take the time to consult with an experienced FMLA attorney.

FMLA Leave Requirements and Eligibility

FMLA leave is regulated by strict requirements and eligibility criteria. All FMLA time is designed to offer an employee protected time off work for eligible medical reasons or to attend to family concerns that make going to work difficult or impossible.

Employees are legally protected from retaliation during FMLA leave, and their health insurance remains in effect.

Under FMLA, employees can take up to 12 weeks off during a one-year period. This time can be taken all at once or split up. When FMLA is split between different periods in a year, it’s called “intermittent FMLA leave.”

FMLA Eligibility

The FMLA has strict requirements for when an employee is eligible to take a protected leave of absence. To qualify for leave under FMLA, an employee must:

  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months
  • Work at a company location that employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles

If an employee meets these criteria, their absence can be covered under FMLA if the leave is approved for a valid reason.

FMLA Requirements

Can You Go on Vacation While on FMLA? FMLA protects an employee’s leave only under a few conditions. These conditions include:

  • Birth and care of an employee’s child
  • Adoption by or foster care placement with an employee
  • A serious health condition experienced by the employee
  • Caring for a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition

There are a small number of other reasons for which an employee might be granted FMLA leave. For example, FMLA can be used to cover leave for pregnancy complications before an employee’s child is born.

Taking Vacation While on FMLA Leave

It’s common for employees to wonder, “Can you go on vacation while on FMLA leave?”

The answer depends on several factors. Depending on company policy, taking vacation time while on FMLA may be possible. If you’re considering vacation while on medical leave, it’s important to communicate with your employer, approve the vacation, and ensure that it meets certain requirements.

Employees should be aware that employers often look suspiciously at employees who take a vacation while on medical leave — especially if the vacation wasn’t approved.

Taking a leave of absence from work for a medical condition and then posting pictures of yourself at the beach on social media can make coworkers and supervisors alike raise an eyebrow, which can lead to serious trouble for the employee on leave.

Can You Travel While on FMLA Leave?

If you’re wondering, “Can you travel while on FMLA leave?” technically, the answer is yes. Your employer can’t control your movement, whether you’re on leave or not. A better question might be, “Should you travel while on FMLA leave?”

There are many valid reasons to travel while on medical leave. Traveling directly related to the reason for your leave of absence shouldn’t be a problem. For example, if you’ve taken leave to care for an ailing parent who lives out of state, you naturally have to travel to get there.

Travel may also be necessary to seek medical care or complete an adoption. Traveling while on FMLA leave only becomes problematic when the travel isn’t directly related to your reasons for taking leave.

FMLA Fraud

The issue with taking a vacation while on medical leave is that FMLA fraud is a problem that employers have to contend with. Unfortunately, some individuals abuse the Family Leave and Medical Act protections, feigning injury or illness to take time off work once they’ve run out of vacation days.

If it comes to your employer’s attention that you’re vacationing while on medical leave, you may become the subject of an HR investigation. Ultimately, your employer’s human resources department will try to determine whether the vacation directly violates or contradicts the reasons for your leave of absence.

For example, an employee who takes FMLA leave to heal from a back injury but then posts photos online of their trip to a ski resort may be considered to have committed FMLA abuse. If an employer can demonstrate that FMLA leave was used fraudulently, they can terminate the employee’s employment.

FMLA and Vacation Time Accrual

Employers have a fair amount of freedom when determining the specific policies around vacation time accrual during medical leave. Whether an employee’s paid time off continues accruing during a leave of absence depends largely on the company policy and the terms of a worker’s employment agreement.

Some employers allow the continued accrual of vacation time during medical leave, while others pause the accrual of paid time off. You can learn your company’s HR policies by making a call or sending an email to your HR department.

Do FMLA and PTO Run Concurrently?

If you’re wondering, “Do FMLA and PTO run concurrently?” the answer may depend on your employer’s policies. FMLA and PTO can — and often do — run concurrently.

Under the FMLA, employers can set policies that require employees to use their paid time off while on FMLA leave. When an employer has a policy in place that requires an employee to use their PTO while on medical leave, FMLA and PTO run concurrently.

When an employer has no such policy in place, typically, the choice to use vacation time while on medical leave is up to the employee, this means that the employee can request the use of vacation time. Still, the employer may also be able to deny that request.

Employer’s Right to Deny Vacation Request While on FMLA Leave

Deny Vacation RequestEmployers can deny a vacation request submitted by an employee on FMLA leave. The primary reasons that an employer is justified in denying a vacation request include the following:

  • The vacation request interferes with FMLA leave
  • Using vacation time while on FMLA is against company policy
  • The vacation request runs counter to demonstrable business needs

An employer must be upfront with employees about how FMLA leave impacts their benefits.

Most employers have a paid leave policy. If an employer’s policy is that a vacation request can be approved or denied according to a supervisor’s discretion, an employer may be legally permitted to deny a vacation request even if there’s no reason based on a company policy that makes denying the request necessary.

Best Practices for Taking Vacation While on FMLA Leave

If you’re hoping to use vacation time while on FMLA leave, communicating proactively with your employer is the best approach. Make sure that you clearly understand your company’s policies and their ramifications.

Tips for taking vacation time while on FMLA leave:

  • Be honest about your travel plans
  • Don’t violate the terms of your FMLA leave
  • Submit the request for vacation time in advance
  • Communicate with your employer and HR department
  • Make sure to receive approval confirmation before your trip
  • Don’t behave in ways that make your FMLA leave appear unnecessary

Ultimately, taking a vacation during FMLA leave can be an enjoyable and helpful way to recover from an illness or surgery.

However, a vacationing employee should always remember that a vacation while on FMLA differs from a regular vacation. Don’t forget the reasons for your medical leave, and don’t behave in ways that can give an employer reason to doubt the validity of your need for taking FMLA leave.

What to Do if Your Employer Denies Your Vacation Request While on FMLA Leave

If your employer denies a vacation request submitted during an FMLA leave, the first step is determining why. Does the request violate company policy? Does your employer have rules in place for when and how vacation time can be requested?

Looking at company policy regarding vacation requests during FMLA leave should be your first step. If policy phrasing is vague or no such policy exists, it’s possible that the refusal was unwarranted or even discriminatory.

FMLA leave is a protection, not a punishment. If there are no company policies or practices in place that justify your employer’s denial of a vacation request during FMLA, they may not have the right to deny your request.

If you suspect that an employer has unjustly denied you the use of your vacation time during FMLA leave, your next step should be to consult an FMLA attorney.

Benefits of Hiring an FMLA Attorney

FMLA benefits are complicated. The fact that a company has the right to create its own policies around many aspects of FMLA leave can make it all the more difficult to understand when your employer is violating your rights.

An FMLA attorney guides you through understanding your rights and benefits and fighting back against unfair or illegal treatment by an employer. An FMLA lawyer can help by:

  • Helping you understand your employer’s policies
  • Providing legal advice and guidance on FMLA policies
  • Representing you if your employer is violating your rights
  • Filing a complaint or lawsuit against your employer for FMLA violations

If you believe your employer has unfairly denied a vacation request during an FMLA leave or suspect an employer has violated your rights under the FMLA or your employment agreement, the experienced FMLA attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. can help.

To learn more about protecting yourself against unfair employer practices during FMLA leave, contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Florida FMLA attorney.



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