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. We have a very overweight employee who wants to have a weight-reduction surgery. This will be expensive and she may be off work for up to six weeks. Do we have to grant her FMLA leave for that time?
Here’s a chance to learn from an employer’s FMLA mistakes. Don’t make the same ones yourself.

Most people think of 50 as the magic number for the FMLA. “Oh, we have 50 employees, so now we have to comply with the FMLA,” is a popular refrain among HR departments. It is not that simple. The FMLA has two different rules that must be met before you have to offer FMLA leave to an employee—coverage and eligibility, which both have the magic number 50 as a key component.

You may have read that employers aren’t permitted to force employees to take medical exams because they could reveal a disability. While pre-employment, pre-job-offer medical exams are barred, there are times when medical exams are fine. The key is whether the exams are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Even legitimate discipline against a lousy employee can spell FMLA trouble if somehow that discipline happens more quickly than it did for other employees with similar disciplinary problems. Advice: Take your time when disciplining workers who have taken FMLA leave. It’s better to be right than fast.

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.
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