ESSEX COUNTY PBA PRESIDENT JOE AMATO SPEAKS OUT ABOUT FMLA LEAVE
PBA President Joe Amato has been around for many years and as such is familiar with the games played by the Administration and their attempts to take advantage of, coerce and intimidate his membership. He is greatly respected by his members and has been in the position of President for many, many, years. In his most recent grievance, he addresses FMLA Issues and the County's attempts to abuse his members and use FMLA leave as an excuse to harass his membership.
After reading his grievance, I realized that he said everything that needs to be said on the subject and has thoroughly addressed the issue. I encourage everyone to read the lengthy grievance posted here. Read Essex County Grievance.
Below are some of the points that PBA President Amato addresses: The Greivance is addressed to the Deputy Director:
However, am I to accept that the process is going to be that anyone who asks for a leave will be treated like an abuser from the door, forced to jump through legal hoops and to have their integrity, their illness, or a family members illness dragged through the mud by YOU and untilYOU feel they are entitled to a leave or will we get back to basics and start granting or denying these leaves based on what the LAW requires?
The stress you're putting on these people with illnesses and issues with their family members is disgusting and the actions of the county doctor who you are using as part of the abuse is even more disgusting, not to mention that you shouldn't be using the "county doctor" in the first place, but I’ll get to that.
IT'S IMPOSSIBLE for you to defend the fact that EVERY SINGLE LEAVE APPLICATION is being, held up beyond the legally prescribed time frame and denied and manipulated to the point where officers need to seek legal advice. You can play that "I need more information game" & Go see the county doctor for a FFDE game" in the application process for just so long before it becomes obvious that you're doing it in a manner to deter and frustrate the employee, which in and of itself is a violation of the law.
Manipulation, deterrents, threats, intimidation, coercion... it’s all covered and you're walking right into a buzz saw, sometimes by your own actions and sometimes by subjecting the officers to those two jokes at the county hospital who call themselves "Doctors".
Your rights and allowances under FMLA as management are to scrutinize the leave paperwork for its qualifying clarity and completion, not the illness or to make personal opinion based judgment calls on those illnesses as reason to deny a leave.
You do not have the right to keep denying a leave application and requesting more and more information to a point of exhaustion about an illness to where medical privacy law is violated.
You only have the right to seek "clarity" on the medical certification based on what the LAW says should be on that certification not what "YOU" want it to say and you are fully entitled to contact the employees HCP for clarity. No need for any foot dragging or sending an employee back to their doctor 4 times for "More Information." It’s a game and it needs to stop.
You do not have the right to send an employee to the "County Doctor" to have their medical condition evaluated in a FFDE when a leave application and proper certification from the employees HCP is submitted.
You only have the right to seek clarity that the certification is complete and that the medical condition is "legitimate and qualifying" and should the employees own HCP not offer that clarity for some reason, you only have the right to send the employee for a second opinion to a Mutually Agreed Upon "INDEPENDENT DOCTOR" who IS NOT EMPLOYED BY THE SAME EMPLOYER. A 3rd opinion may also be sought under the same guidelines and that third opinion becomes binding. Lastly, any second or third opinion based examination must be at the expense of the employer and must only be for the specific health issue for which the leave has been requested.
It ends as of now. My members will be told that when they file a leave request, have submitted all proper documentation from their HCP and are ordered to appear in the county doctor’s office for a FFDE to evaluate them for the leave approval... they can refuse that order, contact me and will be referred to our attorney to file a DOL complaint.
You do not have the right to deny an employee FMLA intermittent leave for themselves or a family member because in YOUR OPINION, that person "can just call in sick and that's what sick time is for."
You do not have the right to demand a FFDE by the "county doctor" as a blanket policy when an employee asks to be reinstated at the end of a family leave and submits the proper certification from their treating physician.
You do have the right to order a FFDE by the county doctor at the point of reinstatement if just cause is shown and if so, must be done without causing a delay in the employees return,after the employee is properly reinstated, in paid status and at the expense of the employer.
In that FFDE for just cause being conducted by the county doctoryou will instruct the doctor that nothing more than the medical issue that caused the leave will be discussed and/or examined.
This too ends as of now. My members will be advised that when returning from their leave they are only obligated to undergo a FFDE by their treating physicianin accordance with their job duties and should expect to be reinstated back into paid status on the exact day that their treating physician reports and certifies on paper that they are fully fit and capable to return to work as a correction officer.
My members will further be advised that due to our complaints, the county will most likely find a reason of just cause and send them to the county doctorjust for spiteonce they are reinstated, but will also be advised that they arenot obligated to divulge or discuss anything other than the medical reason for the leave. If any further questions are asked for any unrelated matters, they are allowed to tell the county doctor that their unrelated medical history or any current issues other than the issue that caused the leave is "none of the doctors business" and will be referred to our attorney to file a DOL complaint.