Once, while recovering from surgery, my doctor instructed me not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk — most certainly ruling out picking up either of my kids for a piggyback ride or a snuggle in my lap. I hated it. I complied, but I hated it.
While pregnant, doctor’s orders were to not take air travel after 32 weeks. Wasn’t crazy about that either, but I did it.
I say these things for two reasons: One, to demonstrate that I’m an awful patient. And two, to illustrate how if I resented my doctor for grounding my activities (even with a legit health reason), I’d most certainly resent my employer for doing so.
But, restricting an employee’s activity while on leave is okay, a federal court ruled recently, stating that an employer may enforce work rules that require employees to "remain in the immediate vicinity" of their home while on sick leave.
In the case, Pellegrino v. CWA, Denise Pellegrino had spent about two weeks at home recovering from surgery — on concurrent FMLA and paid sick leave — before leaving home to go to Cancun, Mexico. The fly in the ointment is 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.
CWA didn’t think so either, and when officials found out about Pellegrino’s trip, they terminated her. She sued, claiming the termination interfered with her right to FMLA leave.
Although the court agreed Pellegrino’s leave was protected, it found CWA had a right to enforce its leave policies.
I’m not an attorney, so I won’t argue the points of law in this case. My bone of contention though is with an employment policy that tells me where I can and can’t go while on sick leave. I don’t care if I’m dragging one leg behind me, I should be able to drag it wherever I choose.
Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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