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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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Q. A while ago two of our employees developed a romantic relationship. They are now expecting a baby and both put in a request for family leave to bond with their newborn. Are we required to give both workers leave for the birth of their child—even if they are not married?
Disabled employees may be en­­titled to some time off as an accommodation, but there are limits. If an employee is constantly absent when his disability makes it impossible to work, you may be able to discharge him. That’s because attendance can be an essential function of a job—and constantly missing work may show that the employee can’t perform that essential function.
In 2008, Congress expanded the FMLA to include two types of military leave: exigency leave and military caregiver leave. In 2010, Congress expanded those leave rights by applying them to the regular armed forces as well as National Guard members and reservists. Now those changes have been officially implemented with new regulations from the DOL.

What if an employee goes on FMLA leave, and you discover that co-workers have been covering up for her incompetence? Or you find that she wasn’t telling you the truth. As this new case shows, it’s legally possible to terminate her.

It’s OK to fire someone whose medical problems clearly don’t qualify as a serious health condition under the FMLA.
It can be frustrating to deal with an employee who has constant attendance problems. But if that employee has a serious health condition entitling him to FMLA leave, there’s really nothing you can do, no matter how inconvenient and disruptive his absences are.
Sometimes, pressing business matters require a supervisor or other company representative get in touch with an employee who's out on FMLA leave. As long as the contact is limited to true business needs and isn’t unduly restrictive or intrusive, the contact won’t cause you to lose an FMLA interference lawsuit.

By now, you are probably familiar with the idea your FMLA obligations are triggered when employees provide enough information for you to reasonably understand that they might need FMLA leave. They don’t need to say any “magic words.” It’s the same with requests for reasonable accommodations under the ADA.

It’s a perennial puzzle: How should employers handle it when an em­­ployee has an FMLA-covered serious health condition that is also an ADA disability? Answer: Consider FMLA leave the minimum amount of un­­paid leave the employee can take.
When an employee finishes FMLA leave, she is entitled to return to the same or an equivalent job. The reinstatement provision gives employees some flexibility. How­­ever, it’s a mistake to think it’s OK to return the employee to any old job.
Q. Are we required to put up a new FMLA poster? Did the DOL recently make other FMLA changes we need to know about?
Many employers are seeing a surge in requests for intermittent leave when an employee has a parent or child who needs help getting to medical appointments or undergoing treatments. Before you approve a request for such intermittent leave, make sure you are satisfied with the medical certification.
Here’s a tip that can prevent a needless lawsuit over FMLA retaliation. When a supervisor recommends firing an employee, make sure the final decision-maker doesn’t know about any recent or current FMLA leave usage.

Do you automatically terminate employees who aren’t ready to return to work after using up all available FMLA and short-term disability leave? If so, you may be asking for an ADA refusal-to-accommodate lawsuit. The better approach: Determine if reasonable accommodations might help the employee return to work despite lingering problems.

Under the FMLA regulations, if an employee is incapacitated, someone else can notify the employer, whose FMLA obligations are then triggered. But that doesn’t mean that a co-worker merely telling a supervisor that the employee is “sick” works as notification. Employers are entitled to better notice than that.

Q. The minor child of one of our employees has a disability. She was approved to be his personal care attendant and requested FMLA leave to see if she would like to do this as a job going forward ... I know FMLA is available to care for a child, but can she use FMLA as a way of trying out a new job?
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued final regulations expanding the FMLA’s caregiver and military exigency leave provisions to include more employees and cover veterans. The new regs formalize amendments included in 2010 defense spending legislation.
Here’s a problem that’s quite common for employers with several work sites spread far apart and one common HR department. Many employees may be eligible for FMLA leave, but some may not be if they work at a location with fewer than 50 employees that’s located within 75 miles of the main office.
Don’t let an angry manager turn routine FMLA leave into expensive and time-consuming litigation. Make sure all supervisors understand their FMLA obligations—and that they have no choice but to cheerfully allow em­­ployees to exercise their rights.

Some managers and supervisors just can’t seem to resist offering “helpful” career advice to subordinates. That’s especially true for workers they may see as less devoted to their work than old-school employees. But a remark concerning absences covered by the FMLA may well be viewed as interference with a protected right.

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