Last month, the federal Department of Labor issued a series of opinion letters addressing various questions under the Family and Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act. One interesting interpretation involved whether organ donations fall under the FMLA’s entitlement to job-protected leave. One could argue that the donor’s absence is not covered because he/she does not suffer from any medical problems. DOL took a more straightforward approach, concluding that the actual organ donation process requires hospital admission and is therefore a covered serious health condition. The donor’s health status prior to admission or the reasons for the donation are not relevant to the FMLA analysis.
Another opinion letter addressed whether time taken by non-exempt employees to participate in employer-sponsored wellness programs is compensable working time under the FLSA. An employee could contend that the time benefits the employer because the wellness program could result in lower medical insurance costs. DOL took the opposite approach, concluding that time spent in wellness programs or biometric screenings predominately benefits the worker, even if it occurs during normal working hours or on the employer’s premises. Participation is voluntary, and presumably, employees are relieved of job responsibilities while participating in these programs. Therefore, time spent in these programs is not required to be paid, although employers could agree to pay employees as an additional incentive for participation.