FMLA Abuse Part 1: How to Identify FMLA Abuse

Let’s start by acknowledging that most of your employees are NOT abusing FMLA. Most employees taking FMLA are legitimately going through something very difficult in their personal lives.

This fact can escape us when we run into a few bad apples that seem to be taking advantage of the law.

But when you do find an employee abusing their FMLA rights, you need to address it. Allowing FMLA abuse to continue will do two things:

  • It will cause morale issues among your other employees, and
  • It will propagate.

So how do you identify possible FMLA abuse situations?

Here are some of the ways that FMLA abuse might show itself:  

  • Absences that always happen on the same day on a frequent basis. If they are consistently absent every Wednesday, there may be an issue.
  • Absences that happen consistently on Mondays or Fridays. Some people joke that FMLA could be called “The Friday Monday Leave Act”. Consistently using FMLA to extend a weekend could indicate abuse.
  • They are using more absences than their doctor estimated over a long period of time.
  • Absences that occur on days that the employee was denied PTO/vacation.
  • Reports from their coworkers about the employee’s outside activities on FMLA days.
  • Confirmed social media posts that indicate that they’re abusing their leave. (Tread lightly here . . . social media policies in the workplace are still being vetted in the court system. But if someone calls in with an unplanned FMLA day, then posts to Facebook that they are at a baseball game, it’s worth a conversation with the employee.)

So, what should you do once you identify one of the situations above?

Should you fire the employee?

No. This is only the first of many steps to take in addressing FMLA abuse.

All you’ve done so far is identify something that may indicate FMLA abuse. There may be a number of reasons that those things are taking place.

You need to do a lot more research before you would approach the employee, and even then, you shouldn’t accuse them of any misbehavior. In my experience, only a small portion of FMLA patterns or indications of abuse turn out to be real, intentional abuse.

Stay tuned during our 6-week FMLA Abuse Series to learn about the next steps in solving FMLA abuse cases and check out our FMLA Metrics tool that allows you to drop in your FMLA absences into an easy-to-use Microsoft Excel workbook and identify patterns and trends.

Here’s a link to the training:

Here are some sample reports included in the tool:



 We hope you enjoyed reading our article on How to Identify FMLA Abuse!

Leave Solutions is based in Milwaukee, WI and helps employers with their FMLA and leave of absence processes from a Human Resources perspective.

Contact us today at if you have questions on identifying FMLA abuse or other topics.

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