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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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FMLA leave is an entitlement and interfering with that leave or punishing a leave taker will backfire. It may even mean personal liability for a manager who decides to punish an employee with an adverse action like termination or demotion.

Firing someone right after she requests FMLA leave or an ADA accommodation can often trigger a lawsuit. But timing close alone won’t sink your chances of winning—as long as you have a valid business reason for discharging the employee that is unrelated to illness or disability.

Q. We have an employee who is on final warning due to his poor attendance. The employee recently requested FMLA leave to care for his wife. While on FMLA leave, it was reported in the newspaper that the employee was arrested for drug possession. He was in jail for several days, including several workdays. The employee is now out of jail and wants to return to work. Can we treat the employee’s absences from work while in jail as occurrences under our attendance policy, or do we have to treat the time as FMLA leave, even though the employee could not have been caring for his wife the days in question since he was in jail?
A woman who claimed she feared she would be fired if she took leave to take family members to medical appointments has lost her fight to receive unemployment benefits.

If you have employees in several locations, some may be covered by the FMLA and others may not be. Keep careful track of which is which. The key eligibility factor in the following case was the number of employees working in one of the employer’s two offices. The magic number is 50.

In an August webinar, attorney Michelle Maslowski of Ogletree Deakins shone a spotlight on Family and Medical Leave Act edge cases that reveal what a puzzle this law can be ... and then provided answers.

Always view termination as an act that might be challenged in court. That’s especially true if the employee has taken FMLA leave in the past. Lawyers love to file FMLA retaliation suits, which can be lucrative. Defend against them by backing up your termination decision with solid documentation of performance or behavior problems.

Employers have the right to set reasonable call-off requirements for when an employee will miss a shift or arrive late. Employees can be required to follow those rules. If someone doesn’t, you can discipline him—even if you approved FMLA leave for the absence. But beware: If you don’t consistently enforce the call-off rule, you may be on the losing end of an FMLA lawsuit.

HR professionals consistently rate FMLA administration as one of their most difficult tasks. New court decisions constantly affect the FMLA landscape.
Do you have an employee with a serious health condition you cannot accommodate? You can insist that she take FMLA leave. There is no legal requirement to go along with her suggestions for elaborate and expensive accommodations that might let her continue working.

It may be disruptive and expensive to provide an employee with up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave and continue to cover your share of an employee’s health insurance premiums. But ignoring your FMLA obligation—or trying to find creative ways around it—can be even more costly to your organization. Consider this recent Pennsylvania case in which the employee ended up losing her medical coverage during a health crisis. The employer has now been ordered to pay the employee’s medical bills directly.

Employees have to work at least 1,250 hours in the preceding year to be eligible for FMLA leave. If an employee requests leave to deal with a medical issue and is close to achieving that threshold, inform her. Maybe she can wait until she’s covered by the FMLA.

Before you approve or reject an employee’s FMLA request, the law allows you to request a medical certification from the employee. That certification must have some specific things.

Being terminated for taking job-protected leave was the No. 1 reason employees filed FMLA-related complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor last year. What were their others?
It may be natural for supervisors to be upset when one of their key employees goes out on workers’ compensation or FMLA leave, but make sure managers know not to lash out.

Some supervisors hesitate to discipline employees who have asked for FMLA leave or seem likely to need it soon. Reassure them that they can and should discipline those who break company rules or perform poorly, even if they are ill or may need FMLA leave. The key is to focus on behavior.

Some supervisors may be tougher than others and some employees may not get along with a particular supervisor. It may be a matter of workplace philosophy or even personality conflict. And the employee may genuinely be so stressed and anxious that she needs medical or psychological treatment. But that does not mean that she can demand transfer to a different supervisor as a reasonable accommodation, a California court has ruled.
Q. We have operations in South Dakota, and one of our employees there has requested FMLA leave to care for his same-sex spouse for an FMLA-qualified reason. The couple was married in Minnesota, but South Dakota does not recognize same-sex marriage. Should we grant the FMLA leave request?
The U.S. Department of Labor has modified its FMLA forms to include employer safe harbor language required under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Yes, employers are supposed to engage in an interactive process to arrive at reasonable ADA accommodations. But that doesn’t mean everything the employee wants, the employee gets. It’s up to the employer to determine which accommodation is both reasonable and best suited to its business needs.
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