Im a Field Service Engineer and my job primarily involves traveling to customer sites but when not traveling required to provide in house support. Recently, my 2 year old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes so travel has been drastically reduced to travel in the area while performing in house support as specified. Recently, my manager has delivered me documentation stating I need to start traveling again within 7 business days or find another postion within or outside the company. Since travel has been reduced, this is the first piece of documentation received regarding such. Is this legal since technically Ive been performing my in house support role as stated in the job description?
I don't disagree with anything my colleagues have said here, but keep in mind that if you qualify for it and if it applies to your situation, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you substantial rights. The FMLA was enacted precisely so that employees would not be forced to choose between their jobs and their family obligations at times of crisis caused by serious illness.
The FMLA allows you to take (unpaid) leave to care for a child with a "serious health condition." The statutory definition of this term is very detailed, but what's key is that your son must be incapacitated from attending day care or other regular daily activities, or must be undergoing multiple medical treatments which are required to prevent such incapacity.
Thus, if you need to be home to take your son to repeated medical appointments or to accompany him during hospital stays, you may qualify for FMLA leave. If so, you can use it on an intermittent basis or by means of a reduced schedule. (I.e., you have more alternatives than taking an outright 12--week leave of absence.) When you have the right to a reduced schedule under the FMLA, if there is another position within the company that is better suited to your schedule, the company can require you to temporarily transfer to it, but this must be at the same pay and benefits and you must be allowed to return to your regular position when your FMLA leave time is used up or your need for leave is over.
Your immediate supervisor does not necessarily know or care about your FMLA rights, but the human resources director of your company should. I have not mentioned here the various threshold requirements to qualify for FMLA leave, but your HR person will know whether you qualify in terms of company size, duration of employment, etc. If you cannot resolve your problem through discussions with HR, you may want to consult an employment lawyer.
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Employers have broad discretion to set job duties, so you're not in a position to tell the employer that travel to customer sites is no longer a part of your job. You may be entitled to protected leave under the FMLA to care for your son, but you would be obligated to try to schedule that leave so as to minimize the impact on the employer. If travel away from home is just not possible given your son's condition then you may need to find a different position. If that is the case, then perhaps you can get your employer to give you more than 7 days. Good luck.
The answer to your question is that both you and your employer have certain rights here. The employer has defined the “essential” functions of your job. You state and agree that “my job primarily involves traveling to customer sites”. If such is the case it would thus appear that the manner in which you framed your question is a bit misleading in that your employer has simply requested that you resume this essential job function or seek other work either within or without the company. If I were you, I would move heaven and earth to find a way to strike a balance between your child care responsibilities and those of your job. While others may wish to weigh-in here with respect to FMLA and several other state laws which protect the rights of employees in the Commonwealth, the fact remains that nothing you have stated that the employer has requested of you is illegal. If you have additional facts, now would be a good time to share them. I hope you can work this out, perhaps with the assistance of other family members. Good luck and best regards, Rob Fortgang
Attorneys Fortgang and Jackson are correct. You have not stated any actions on the part of your employer that are illegal.
Attorney Lauren Craig Redmond ~ 617.953.6116 ~ No attorney/client relationship is established or implied by any email or phone conversation.
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