The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a challenging statute for employers to comply with, and can prove to be confusing and difficult. FMLA offers employees up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job protected leave for specified family and medical leave, and 26 weeks to provide care for a covered military service worker; provided they meet the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
FMLA Filed Complaints and Cost to Employers
According to the Department of Labor (DOL) in 2017 alone, there were 1,165 FMLA complaints filed of which 586 of those cases were directed to pay back wages exceeding $1.4 million; this is a 24% increase over the previous 5 years.
|FMLA Enforcement Statistics: Nature of Complaint|
|Refusal to Grant FMLA Leave||225|
|Refusal to Restore to Equivalent Position||122|
|Failure to Maintain Health Benefits||11|
|Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division|
Steps to Ensure FMLA Law Compliancy
Covered employers must provide FMLA benefits and protections to eligible employees and comply with other responsibilities required under the FMLA and its regulations at 29 CFR Part 825.
- Understanding how the FMLA process works as an employee on medical leave can have an impact on business needs and managers should be prepared. Implement policies and procedures to ensure the process is followed.
- The employer is responsible to provide a notice of the Employees Rights and Responsibilities
- Providing formal training to all managers on basic FMLA is conducive to ensure compliance. This pertains not only to the FMLA process and laws, but also, how to manage FMLA qualified employees. This should also include a checklist for managers.
- Implement a formal policy to request leave and enforce a call-off policy to track attendance.
- When an employee returns from leave, return the employee to the same job, if it is available. If the job is no longer available, the employee should be placed in an equivalent job with pay and benefits.
- Employers are required to continue group health insurance coverage for an employee on FMLA leave under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
- When an employee is qualified for intermittent leave, the employer cannot ask for a fit-for-duty certification or return to work for absence on an intermittent schedule. However, the employer can request a fit-for-duty certification once every 30 days if reasonable safety concerns exist about the employee’s ability to perform the essential duties of the job.
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee or prospective employee for exercising any FMLA right.
- Use extreme caution when terminating employees on current or recent FMLA leave. Review attendance and performance records and compare to any current or recent FMLA leave the employee may have been on to determine if the termination could be related to FMLA leave.
- Effective communication is essential of a successful Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. Covered employers must provide employees with certain critical notices about the FMLA. An employer generally will be covered under the FMLA if it is a private employer with 50 or more employees, a public agency, or a public or private elementary or secondary school.
- All covered employers must display a general notice about the FMLA (an FMLA poster).
For more information on FMLA visit https://www.dol.gov/WHD/fmla/ or call the toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).
Denise Calabrese is a Certified Human Resources Specialist attained through Michigan State University. Driven by her passion for customer service and helping others, she currently works as a Human Resources Coordinator specializing in recruitment, employee relations, and case management.