The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that covered employers give their employees up to 12 weeks per year of job-protected, unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons. The employee has access to the same group insurance while on leave that he or she would have if still at work. Due to the significance of the coverage, it is important that employers avoid these common FMLA mistakes.
Late FMLA Request-Filing
Once an employee has a need to take leave, their supervisor should report this to HR as soon as possible. The FMLA period does not begin until the employer has informed HR, so late reporting could lead to the employee taking more than 12 weeks off, which could be a staffing issue for the company.
Losing Track of FMLA Leave
Some FMLA periods occur intermittently throughout the year, as opposed to happening consecutively. For this reason, some employers struggle to keep track of how much time employees have taken off, which could result in employees getting too many days or weeks of FMLA leave. This can negatively impact productivity and morale.
Failing to Give the Required Notices
There are four required FMLA notices:
- A general notice that everyone can see, such as a poster,
- A notice that confirms the employee’s eligibility for FMLA leave must be provided within five days of the leave request;
- A rights and responsibilities notice that outlines an employee’s rights under the FMLA, and
- A designation notice, also due within five days, that informs the employee whether or not their absence qualifies as FMLA leave.
Any employer covered under FMLA must legally provide employees with all the required FMLA notices.
Incorrectly Providing FMLA Leave
The FMLA specifically outlines the circumstances it covers. An employer who grants FMLA to an employee inappropriately can face issues later down the road. Employers should also be mindful, though, that even though something or someone does not qualify for FMLA leave, does not mean that the Americans with Disabilities Act may not apply.
Accepting Certifications that are Not Complete
Certain circumstances require employees to provide certification of serious health conditions to get FMLA leave. Employers should not accept certifications that are missing information.
No Plan to Prevent FMLA Abuse
Unfortunately, some employees abuse FMLA leave. To prevent FMLA abuse, employers should have a specific plan that encourages employees to be honest about using FMLA leave. Employers should also be prepared to issue discipline for any FMLA abuse.
Forgetting About the ADA
Some employers forget that an employee’s health condition covered by FMLA may also be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If the condition constitutes a disability under the ADA, the employee may be eligible to receive more time off.
No FMLA Policy
Creating a written FMLA policy, circulating it to all employees, and conducting training for managers can be vital to preventing missteps and legal concerns with family medical leave. (A written FMLA policy is a good place to address issues such as whether or not the company will use 12-month calendar period to track leave or a rolling-12-month period that begins when an employee’s leave begins.)
The experienced employment lawyers at Simon | Paschal PLLC, help employers navigate FMLA issues, create FMLA policy for their organizations, and provide assistance in FMLA-related lawsuits and negotiations. Contact us today for more information.