Applying for New Jobs While on FMLA

by Evil HR Lady on February 1, 2016

I work in a hospital where we just hired a new boss 15 months ago. She has literally run people off and fired several others. Her expectations are unreasonable. I have been hoping they were going to get rid of her, but it doesn’t look that way.

I have been needing shoulder surgery and have put it off. I decided to get the surgery done in hopes she might not be there when I come back. That doesn’t look like it is going to happen.

While I am out for surgery, I was informed of a new job in another hospital. It looks like no one has applied for the position.

My dilemma is, my employer does not know if I am out longer than the 12 weeks, that I will have my job when I get back. (That is in 3 weeks) My doctor states I will not be able to do CPR until after that time.  Human Resources has stated they can not promise me the job after the time FMLA is done. They will not let me do direct patient care with any restrictions.

Can I apply for this job while I am on leave? What is the consequence of doing so? Can they take my pay back? On one of the FMLA paperwork, it states no job hunting while on FMLA. Is that true? I do not want to be in some legal battle.

I do not want to miss this opportunity. I really would love this opportunity.

I am answering this question even though I’m not 100 percent sure of the answer. I’m hoping someone with a lot more knowledge will weigh in in the comments.

Here’s what I do know. FMLA leave itself doesn’t prohibit someone from job hunting. It does prohibit people from doing things that they shouldn’t be able to do, due to the terms of their leave. So, in your case, if you were out shoveling snow with your shoulder that is incapable of performing CPR, that would be an FMLA violation–since you’re clearly lying about your shoulder abilities.

But interviewing for a job doesn’t aggravate your shoulder, so it’s not a violation of your leave.

Now, the thing I don’t know about is your paperwork stating that you can’t apply for jobs while you’re on FMLA. I don’t know whether that is legal or not. Personally, I would never, ever, not in a million years approve putting that language on FMLA paperwork. Why? Because it seems like FMLA interference to me.

Why? Because are other employees prohibited from looking for new employment? Is it company policy that they fire everyone who goes on a job interview? If so, then there’s no need to put it in the paperwork. If not, then isn’t it a restriction on people on FMLA?

That’s my logic anyway.

But, let’s assume that it’s legal for them to punish you for job hunting while on FMLA. How can they punish you? They can fire you. They can demote you. They can give you less favorable shifts. But, they can only do this if they would do it to people who are also job hunting while not on FMLA. (I believe.)

My advice? Apply for the job. Your company policy will determine if you have to pay back health insurance premiums if you quit rather than come back from FMLA. It’s doubtful you’d have a job offer within 3 weeks anyway, and if you’re not cleared for work, they might well terminate you at that point anyway. (Which is legally sketchy, because ADA kicks in here and it might be considered reasonable to hold your job for another month or two.)

You hate where you work. You want to pursue this new opportunity. It’s doubtful your current company would find out. I’d interview.

But, I’d really like to learn more about the legalities of having that restriction on FMLA paperwork. Anyone?

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