That employee re-hire in your office may be eligible for medical leave sooner than you think. An employee who is rehired after a break in employment may not have to work a full 12 months in order to qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In a recent federal court of appeals decision, an employee who had a five-year break in service qualified for FMLA leave after working only seven and a half months upon being rehired. Rucker v. Lee Holding Co. (1st Cir. Dec. 18, 2006).

In order to qualify under FMLA, an “eligible employee” must be employed “for at least 12 months by the employer” and “for at least 1,250 hours of service with such employer during the previous 12-month period.” 29 U.S.C. § 2611(2)(A). An employee still must have worked at least 1,250 hours upon being rehired to qualify for FMLA. However, an employee may be able to count previous work experience with an employer towards fulfilling the 12-month period requirement.

Bottom line: employers should keep records of all prior employment and consult these records when considering FMLA decisions for employee rehires.