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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While it isn’t convenient for managers when an employee takes FMLA leave, that leave is an entitlement. Punishing the employee—in small or big ways—when she returns can backfire big time.
Q: “An employee requests permission to arrive 5-10 minutes late for work each morning because her spouse suffers from multiple sclerosis, and is so fatigued that he cannot get out of bed on his own in the morning to take his medicine. Is the employee considered eligible for intermittent FMLA? Is an employee asking to leave work on occasion to pick up her father, who suffers from dementia and sometimes wanders off, eligible for intermittent FMLA?” – April, Tennessee
Not everyone is eligible for FMLA leave, especially in companies with multiple locations that employ fewer than 50 workers within 75 miles of a work site. But sometimes companywide handbooks describe FMLA benefits without clarifying that some employees aren’t eligible because of where they work. Make sure employees in satellite offices understand they may not be eligible.

Don’t think that just because an employee was a poor performer before she requested FMLA leave, a poor review after the request can’t be retaliation. If there is other evidence of retaliation (like a direct statement that FMLA leave was a factor), then the previous poor performance won’t be much of a defense.

Employees who take FMLA leave have no special protection from discipline for poor performance that’s not related to the fact that they took leave. That means you may refuse to reinstate an employee who took FMLA leave, as long as you would have done so anyway.

Some managers think they can handle employees with disabilities on their own. That’s never a good idea. Someone in HR should oversee every aspect of disability accommodations. Leave management out of it—other than requiring every manager and supervisor to report immediately potential disabilities to HR. Otherwise, things can go badly wrong, as they did in one recent case.

Q: “If an employee has requested lifelong, intermittent FMLA leave (worked one year, and worked over 1,250 hours in preceding 12 months), can an employer make a request for updated medical certification once per year? The employee continues to work at least 1,250 hours in a rolling calendar period.” – Anne, Minnesota
Normally, it’s risky to fire someone who has just taken FMLA leave. However, you can terminate such an employee—if you can show that changes were underway before FMLA leave began.
Except in the case of leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, U.S. Department of Labor regulations say an eligible employee’s FMLA leave entitlement is limited to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for any one, or more, of the following reasons.
Employers can require a fitness-to-return-to-work exam when employees have been out on FMLA leave for their own serious health condition. If the worker’s doctor clears the employee—even with minor restrictions—you should allow him to return while you get necessary medical clarification.
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