An HR Case Study

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Apr 1st, 2012

Are you in the mood to test your FMLA and ADA skills? If so, this is the perfect case study for you. To heighten the suspense, I’m not providing the answers. If you get stuck on a point or two, leave your questions in the comments section. I’m looking forward to some great discussion!

When you were over the department, Christine used to be your favorite employee. Sure, she was boisterous and always had something to say about something. And, if you made her mad, you’d better watch your back. All in all, though, she was fun to work with and always got the job done.

Well, that was fifteen years ago and a lot has changed. You’ve been promoted a couple of times and only rarely get involved in the hands on, day-to-day operations of the department.

From what you hear, though, Christine’s having a rough time of it. A few years back, she was diagnosed with adult on-set diabetes. When her condition is not controlled by medication, it can make her sluggish and really grumpy. In the last few years, she hasn’t had issues with the technical aspects of her job…but, her tantrums have become legendary.

Christine’s manager, Peggy, is frustrated with Christine’s frequent outbursts and has said on numerous occasions she is going to recommend Christine for discipline if she doesn’t stop cursing at her co-workers, yelling at the students, and slamming the phone down on higher-ups.

In fact, in 2007, Peggy issued Christine a Letter of Expectations regarding her inappropriate behavior and poor performance. After receiving the letter, Christine began working on her issues. Her performance improved, however, her diabetes worsened. In 2008, Christine sought and was granted a reasonable accommodation through OEO. Her accommodations provide for a flexible work schedule, with reasonable notice to the department.

For most of 2008, the flexible schedule arrangement went smoothly. In early 2009, due to increased disability, she had to reduce her hours to part time. In September of 2009, while getting out of the shower at home, Christine fell and broke her hip. Her doctor estimated that she would be incapacitated for 16 weeks. The HR Liaison granted her the maximum FMLA allotment, 240 hours over six weeks, based on her part time employment status.

Fortunately, Christine healed faster than expected. She was able to return to work in 11 weeks, but Peggy issued her a Corrective Action for unauthorized absences. Apparently, while recovering, she exhausted her Sick Leave, Annual Leave, and 6 weeks of “pro-rated” FML.

When Christine makes an appointment to speak with you, her trusted ally from her early days at her employer, you’re a bit surprised – you haven’t spoken to Christine in years – but, you listen to her story with an open mind. It takes her about an hour to get it all out. From what you understand about the current situation, Christine feels that Peggy’s recommendation that she receive discipline is discriminatory. Christine tells you that she’s always been allowed to speak her mind in the department and it doesn’t makes since that she is going to be “terminated” now, after all these years. Christine thinks the real reason behind Peggy’s “threat” is that her diabetes and health problems keep her out of work a lot. From Christine’s point of view, Peggy just wants to get rid of her and hire someone younger and healthier.

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