Compliance with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be confusing, time consuming, and risky to the employer if not done correctly. Providing proper training to your staff and being prepared to respond to requests for leave is essential for employers. The simplest errors can result in legal liability to the company.
As an employer, you should be aware of the many rules that come with properly administering a FMLA leave. These rules and regulations include: type of information to request for the leave, how to properly calculate if an employee is eligible for the FMLA leave, and when to contact an employee on FMLA leave. Not knowing the rules for any one of those items could lead to a legal situation.
What action items can you do now to follow FMLA rules? You can start by making sure you have the latest FMLA poster at every worksite. You should also have an FMLA policy that is distributed to your employees, such as a policy in your handbook. Make sure to advise your employees in writing of the approval or denial of the FMLA request within the required time frames. Also make sure to track the leave correctly and never retaliate or interfere with an employee’s right to FMLA leave.
One mistake I see too often is an employer failing to recognize when a leave request has been made. Just because an employee doesn’t use the magic words “FMLA”, that doesn’t mean the time off from work is not protected. If you are unsure if the leave is FMLA eligible, speak with your employee. Having an open line of communication can help you determine what steps to take. If the leave is FMLA, you may need a certification from their health care provider and you must give them 15 calendar days to respond. You as the employer must know the rules, and don’t assume that the employee knows the rules. Be upfront with the employees regarding the consequences for failing to provide an adequate certification. This process can be confusing for them as well.
I have read many damaging court cases that employers lose due to simple mistakes made by the supervisor receiving the request. A simple “sigh” or a comment such as “This is a really bad time to take leave” can put your company in hot water. It may be beneficial to role play with the supervisors to make sure they respond properly and train them to show empathy towards that employee. Often these leave requests come because an employee, or their family member, is sick or hurt. Employees that are treated stricter or suddenly start receiving poor performance reviews following an FMLA leave may have grounds for a retaliation claim. Proper training can help mitigate this risk and even improve relationships between the supervisor and employee.
Some FMLA leaves may cause lost productivity, scheduling issues, and cost predicaments. Other laws, such as American with Disabilities Act (ADA), may also play a part in the leave situation. Knowing how to administer FMLA correctly can save you money, legal battles, and other productivity factors in the long run. With OmniaHR, we have classes covering FMLA and a certified HR professional to help guide you in those tricky situations. Reach out to us today and learn how OmniaHR can help you.