States and the federal government alike strongly uphold the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Unfortunately, this highly beneficial set of laws can be more than a little complicated for employers to understand. The general idea is well understood, but the implementation is where employers tend to make mistakes. Here are the top ways employers find themselves in FMLA trouble.
Failure of Recognition
Many employers struggle to distinguish between what constitutes a use of sick days and when FMLA leave is needed. With the act stating that employees do need to request medical leave, it is the responsibility of the employer to recognize when leave under the FMLA is justified.
Management needs to remain aware of qualifying serious health conditions as well as ongoing treatment, which requires a little training. Experts suggest that any condition lasting more than three consecutive days should also warrant a discussion about FMLA leave.
Failure to Act
When managers and employers understand what constitutes FMLA leave, the next common issue is that they fail to take action. Failure to follow up with HR or third-party leave administrators is a fast-track to legal issues.
Employees are routinely affected by medical leave discrimination in various forms. One way employers carry this out is by sharing with employees that they feel FMLA should not be taken despite it being a legal right. Any move to dissuade an employee from taken their legal leave can lead to a hefty lawsuit.
Employers are not allowed to require that employees work while on leave, yet many badger them though email or text about work that needs done. It is in your best interest to speak with HR before contacting an employee on leave, even over situations as simple as requesting a password.
While employees can voluntarily decide to take on a minimal amount of work, employers cannot force them to complete these tasks or come into the office during FMLA leave. Any voluntary work must be documented and compensated. Any attempt to badger an employee into taking on their regular work duties is illegal.
While the two situations above can be considered forms of bullying, there are managers out there who take action against employees that take FMLA leave. Not only can you find yourself asked to appear in court by a wrongful termination attorney, your business might also face legal action for demotions and maltreatment. Disclosing health conditions to co-workers falls under bullying as well.
HR needs to be vigilant in seeking out these managers and supervisors, which a simple training session can equip them for. At the same time, HR and employers should work together when managers recommend termination. While the facts presented might make sense, it isn’t uncommon for the true motive to be unlawful.
FMLA and You
Keeping yourself out of trouble with FMLA laws doesn’t have to be difficult. Preparing your HR department and training managers to follow these laws will help you avoid unnecessary legal battles, as well as retain quality employees.