Posted on July 18, 2013

What You Need to Know About FMLA Regulations

According to a recent Department of Labor (DOL) study, 13% of all employees reported taking FMLA leave in the past year. With thousands of employees taking advantage of the FMLA, there are a few things employers should know about the law.

1. What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. They are also entitled to group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if they had not taken leave.

Eligible employees are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

* The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth
* The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement
* To care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition
* A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job
* Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”

The FMLA also provides for military caregiver leave, which allows 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, child, parent or next of kin.

2. How does it impact your business?

The FMLA applies to all:
* Public agencies, including local, state and federal employers, and local education agencies (schools)
* Private sector employers who employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year—including joint employers and successors of covered employers

The FMLA only requires unpaid leave. However, the employee must be able to keep their job and their benefits. If an employee is replaced while on FMLA leave, the employer must offer them an equivalent job with equivalent pay when they return.

Employers also have a burden of education: they must make employees aware of their FMLA leave options. Employers must:

* Post FMLA notices in conspicuous places
* Include a general notice in their employee handbook
* Mention it in other written guidance concerning employee benefits
* Provide FMLA notices to each new employee upon hiring
* Alert employees who request FMLA leave of their rights and responsibilities
* Notify employees of their eligibility to take FMLA leave if they plan to take time off for a qualifying reason

In general, the regulations require an employer to notify an employee of whether the employee is eligible to take FMLA leave (and, if not, at least one reason why the employee is ineligible) within five business days of the employee requesting leave or the employer learning that an employee’s leave may be for a FMLA-qualifying reason.

3. What are the consequences of violating the FMLA?

Employers who violate the FMLA could be subject to penalties from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, as well as lawsuits from employees. Companies can be required to pay:

* Back pay: Wages, salary or fringe benefits the employee should have earned
* Actual monetary losses sustained: Money lost by the employee (other than wages) as a result of the FMLA violation—can be equal to up to 12 weeks’ wages
* Liquidated damages: Back pay and actual monetary losses sustained, plus interest—typically only awarded if the employer’s FMLA violation was found to be intentional

4. How can you manage FMLA compliance?

Non-compliance with the FMLA poses a major financial risk for companies. Here are a few ways to stay on top of FMLA compliance:

* Records and documentation: Paycor’s HRIS software solution allows you to record hours of FMLA leave taken and attach any relevant documentation, such as notes from health care providers.
* Burden of education: Our HR Support Center can help you with the required policies, posters and notices to make employees aware of their FMLA options. Paycor’s HR and timekeeping solutions can also alert you to absences that may qualify for FMLA leave.

Learn more about how we can help your company reduce your compliance risk: talk to a Paycor representative. For more information on the FMLA, visit the DOL’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

Sources: Department of Labor, eHow