Pay During Medical Leave

May 1, 2009

We have an employee who, unfortunately, needed surgery. She took about 10 days off. She’s now back in the office, but she can’t do much. She is on the clinical staff and needs to be on the floor, but she says she can’t walk much and needs to sit most of the day. Do we have to have to keep her at a full salary, or can we lay her off until she is stronger?

Question: We have an employee who, unfortunately, needed surgery. She took about 10 days off. She’s now back in the office, but she can’t do much. She is on the clinical staff and needs to be on the floor, but she says she can’t walk much and needs to sit most of the day.

Do we have to have to keep her at a full salary, or can we lay her off until she is stronger?

Answer: What you probably need to do is place her on medical leave until a doctor releases her to do her regular work.

You need to refer to your employee handbook’s medical and family leave policy and make sure that these policies do not offer compensation during that leave. Most employers allow employees to pay for medical leave by using vacation and sick leave accruals. Salary continuation is normally optional.

If you are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), benefit continuation for the duration of the leave is required. Holding the position for the employee until the end of the FMLA period is also a requirement.

If the employee is rendered disabled within the definition of the Americans with Disabilities Act you may be required to “make a reasonable accommodation” by modifying the employee’s work duties to accommodate for her disability. Of course, this is all contingent on your ability to accommodate the employee without harming the business and its operations. That may not apply here.

If the employee is not released to perform her regular duties, then you may terminate her at the end of the medical leave unless you can afford to accommodate for the disability.

It would be wise to run all this by legal counsel.