FMLA Guidelines

We’ll assist you in tracking and managing intermittent FMLA leave … fighting FMLA fraud and FMLA abuse … and managing FMLA in general.

Beyond mastering FMLA regulations on intermittent leave, we’ll share FMLA guidelines on how to curb FMLA abuse, and dramatically improve your overall FMLA compliance.

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Q. One of our employees is adopting a 5-year-old Ethiopian child and has asked for leave to travel to complete the adoption and bond with the child when they return to Minnesota. Does this count as FMLA leave, since it is not leave within the first year of the child’s life? If it does, is the travel time eligible for FMLA leave?

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has finally settled a key question: Can employers and employees settle FMLA disputes without having to get either court or Department of Labor approval? The court said yes, such cases can be settled between the parties without outside interference. That’s good news.

Some employers believe that pregnant women aren’t entitled to time off for pregnancy-related matters because pregnant women aren’t disabled or unable to perform their jobs. That’s wrong and can land employers in big trouble. The fact is that prenatal visits and even bouts of nausea are the sorts of things that Congress considered when covering pregnancy under the FMLA.

When it comes to deciding whether to grant reasonable accommodations, the first step is to determine whether the employee is really disabled. A diagnosis isn’t the last word. Does the condition actually limit the employee in some substantial way?

Sometimes employees will suddenly request FMLA leave when they know they face termination because they’re not meeting their performance goals. They think no one can be fired while on FMLA leave. Wrong! You can fire such a worker—as long as you first make performance goal adjustments that take their FMLA leave into account.

Employees occasionally have to step in on short notice to help care for a family member and may legitimately need FMLA leave to handle those responsibilities. Go ahead and suggest FMLA time off. However, until the employee takes you up on the offer, you can hold her to your regular attendance policy.

Employees out on unpaid FMLA leave are still entitled to health insurance benefits if they were covered before going out on leave. However, if the employee was required to pay part of the premium before taking leave, that obligation continues.

Many employers don’t like to provide specific reasons for firing someone. Instead, they simply tell the employee that he is being terminated from his at-will employment. Don’t take that as an excuse not to document the reason you are terminating the employee.

Under the law, an employee who takes FMLA leave is entitled to return to the same position he or she held when leave started or to an equivalent position. However, there are situations when employers can refuse to reinstate workers returning from FMLA leave—but only under limited circumstances.
Employers are free to develop their own policies, but many laws have an absolute mandate—you must ensure employees receive proper notice of your policies. That's why the FMLA section of your handbook is so important. Here's your roadmap to full compliance with the FMLA's notification requirements.
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