On May 19, 2011, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania held in Pellegrino v. Communication Workers of America that an employer's enforcement of its rule requiring that employees not travel outside the immediate vicinity of their homes (with some limited exceptions, including for medical treatment) during paid leave did not violate the FMLA.
The plaintiff, Denise Pellegrino, was on an approved FMLA leave for a hysterectomy surgery on October 2, 2008. On October 16, 2008, while on leave, plaintiff traveled to Cancun for one week. The plaintiff was terminated for violating company policy by traveling to Cancun. The plaintiff sued, alleging that the company violated the FMLA by interfering with her FMLA rights.
In holding that the company's application of its rule prohibiting travel did not violate the FMLA, the court explained that "the FMLA does not shield an employee from termination if the employee was allegedly involved in misconduct related to the use of the FMLA leave, so long as these policies do not conflict with or diminish the rights provided by the FMLA." The court further explained that the policy was designed to curb abuses, and did not interfere with or discourage employees from exercising their FMLA rights.
Employers that would consider adopting a similar policy should ensure that the policy would not interfere with or discourage employees from exercising their FMLA rights, and that employees have clear notice of the policy before it is enforced.