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Eight Things Your Managers Need to Know About the FMLA

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Whether they realize it or not, managers have the power to make or break cases involving the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Experts say employer violations often occur when managers respond too quickly and emotionally to FMLA-triggering situations. The good news is, proper training is the key to preventing these costly manager mistakes.

Responding carefully

At the annual conference from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Jeff Nowak, partner at Franczek Radlet and founder of FMLA Insights, and Matt Morris, vice president of FMLASource, shared eight things you should tell your managers about handling FMLA requests:

  1. Be on the lookout for a serious health condition. It is important for managers to know when an employee's illness could potentially turn into something more. For example, if an employee took a sick day because of a sore back, find out if it was a temporary strain or a chronic condition.
  2. Remember FMLA leave can be intermittent. FMLA leave is not always long-term; a few absences here and there can still be protected. Managers need to be able to identify what is intermittent FMLA leave and what is just a regular sick day.
  3. Know when to involve human resources. When a manager determines an employee might qualify for FMLA leave, they need to know when to bring human resources into the conversation. Let them know at what point in the discussion this should happen.
  4. Enforce policies consistently. If your company has certain call-in procedures for employees on FMLA leave, it is important those policies apply to everyone. An employee's retaliation claim could be stronger if policies were not enforced fairly.
  5. Hold back emotions. Managers should not let an employee know they are unhappy about their FMLA leave request, but it can be tricky to hold back a reaction of some kind. Train your managers to respond with, "Let me know how I can help you."
  6. Keep things confidential. Managers cannot discuss an employee's medical condition or FMLA leave with people who do not need to know about it — this by itself can violate the FMLA. Help your managers come up with responses if co-workers ask about an employee on leave.
  7. Do not bother workers on leave. Employees out on FMLA leave should not have much contact with the company. There could be situations where contact is necessary, but those should be handled carefully. Tell your managers to ask human resources before reaching out to someone on leave.
  8. Document everything. When an employee who took FMLA leave is terminated, it can easily look suspicious. It is crucial for managers to document everything, including performance issues or strange leave patterns that could indicate FMLA abuse.

Posted In: Human Resources, General; Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Want to know more? Read the full article by Rachel Mucha at HR Morning

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