Should employees be on lock-down during FMLA?

Denise Pellegrino (in the case of Pellegrino v. CWA) had spent about two weeks at home recovering from surgery – on con-current FMLA and paid sick leave – before leaving home to go on a trip to Cancun, Mexico.

All seemed well and good until it was revealed that according to CWA’s sick leave policy, employees on leave may not leave their local area without written permission from the company unless seeking medical treatment or conducting “ordinary or necessary activities directly related to personal or family needs.”

I’m guessing Pellegrino wasn’t in Cancun on a post-op physician’s visit and when word got back to CWA, they didn’t believe so either.  When officials found out about Pellegrino’s trip, they fired her.

She sued, claiming the termination interfered with her right to FMLA leave. The court agreed that her leave was protected but sided with CWA and their right to enforce their own leave policy.

Is it okay for employers to now dictate where they can and cannot go while on sick leave?

Recently, a federal court ruled stating that an employer may enforce work rules that require employees to “remain in the immediate vicinity” of their home while on sick leave.

I’m sure that in the end, CWA lost more money on legal fees proving their case than they would had they gone ahead and allowed her to take this trip. Should our employees be on lock-down during taking time off for medical leave?

If a person is sick and unable to work, it would seem that they are not able to engage in other activities that would be work equivalent, including being up and about in public, or physically active. I suppose it would also depend on the particular on the job daily activities on the part of the employee, in his or her function, as to whether or not they could perform.

Photo Credit: Deborah Humphries