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Make sure employees know their FMLA rights

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

HR professionals consistently rate FMLA administration as one of their most difficult tasks. However, many FMLA problems result from a simple, unforced error: Failing to ensure that employees know their FMLA rights.

In one recent case, the Staples office supply chain had to pay more than $250,000 in damages and penalties because it failed to tell an employee he could take FMLA leave to care for his terminally ill wife instead of working from home.

When he was fired after falling behind in his work, he sued for FMLA interference and won.

Don’t let such a basic mistake drag you into court.

Here are simple steps you can take to make sure employees understand their FMLA rights:

Train supervisors. Every manager or supervisor is the potential first contact for an FMLA leave request. For employers, each untrained manager or supervisor represents a potential for costly litigation, bad press and poor workplace morale.

Schedule regular FMLA training for supervisors. Address the topic during initial management training; run a refresher course every year or so.

Have central point of contact. Many employers opt to train their HR staff on the FMLA’s intricacies and then train managers and supervisors to refer all requests to the appropriate point of contact in HR. This arrangement, however, is no substitute for training supervisors. In fact, it only works if bosses know how to recognize legitimate requests for FMLA leave, and understand how to avoid inadvertently retaliating against a leave-taking employee.

Display workplace posters. One of the simplest forms of compliance is to conspicuously display the government’s official FMLA employee rights and responsibilities poster. Download it for free at www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmla.htm.

The DOL takes employers’ responsibility to inform employees of their FMLA rights seriously. Employers that fail to provide employees with FMLA information may be fined $110 for each violation. Each day without the poster or proper notification constitutes another violation.

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