Q: Our company provides a bonus to all employees based on overall company performance. Do we have to pay an employee who is out on a leave of absence (LOA), and would payment of the bonus impact his or her disability payments?
A: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that employees be restored to the same or an equivalent position with the same benefits and compensation. If an employee was eligible for a bonus before taking FMLA leave, the employee would be eligible for the bonus upon returning to work. The FMLA leave may not be counted against the employee. For example, if an employer offers a perfect attendance bonus, and the employee has not missed any time prior to taking FMLA leave, the employee would still be eligible for the bonus upon returning from FMLA leave.
On the other hand, the FMLA does not require that employees on FMLA leave be allowed to accrue benefits or seniority. For example, an employee on FMLA leave might not have sufficient sales to qualify for a bonus. The employer is not required to make any special accommodation for this employee because of the FMLA. The employer must, of course, treat an employee who has used FMLA leave at least as well as other employees on paid and unpaid leave (as appropriate) are treated.
Therefore, if the bonus is based purely on the company’s performance without specific individual employee productivity metrics to qualify that employee for the bonus, then the employee on leave would be entitled to such a bonus.
The bonus would likely not impact the disability payments, but it is best to check with the specific plan documents or with the carrier to determine what, if any, impact it may have.
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