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Total Articles: 97

Documented Performance Issues and Inadequate Notice of Need for Leave Sink Employee’s FMLA Claims

Granting summary judgment to an employer on Family and Medical Leave Act claims asserted by a former employee, an Illinois district court held that: (1) the employee had failed to demonstrate his firing had any causal relationship to his prior FMLA leave (or any potential future need for FMLA leave); and (2) the employer’s initial denial of FMLA leave was justified based on the plaintiff’s failure to provide sufficient medical documentation justifying his wife’s “serious health condition.” Davidson v. Evergreen Park Community High School District 231, No. 15 C 0039, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 77724 (N.D. Ill. May 23, 2017).

Can an Employee take FMLA Leave to Care For a Sibling? Before You Say "No," Read This

I love my brother dearly. I love my sister just as much.

Got an Employee Who Doesn't Follow Your FMLA Call-in Policy? Apparently, You Now Have to Ask Him Why He Couldn't

I recently had an interesting call with a DOL investigator, and I wanted to share it with you.

Employer Violates FMLA for Failure to Provide Calculation of When Leave Expires, Court Rules

In a case reminding employers of their obligation to notify employees about their Family and Medical Leave Act rights, the District Court of New Jersey has ruled that an employer violated the FMLA when it terminated an employee without providing her notice that her modified return-to-work date exceeded her available leave. Ross v. Youth Consultation Service, Inc., No. 02229 (D.N.J. Dec. 29, 2016).

Employee Cannot Maintain Collective Action for Employer’s Failure to Post FMLA Notice

We all know that the FMLA is fraught with pitfalls that can lead to costly mistakes. But a collective action for simply failing to post a notice? On January 6, 2017 a U.S. District Court in Maryland rejected such an attempt.

Butt Implants, Male Breast Reductions Among Top Plastic Surgery Trends. But Are These Procedures Protected by FMLA?

Apparently, Kim Kardashian isn’t the only one whose derrière seems to have transformed over the years.

Use The "Rolling" Method to Calculate FMLA Leave! This Employer Learned the Hard Way

Every once in awhile, I find myself counseling an employer with either no FMLA policy or one completely lacking any meaningful details. Often, these policies fail to include key provisions to protect against liability.

Can an Employee Decline FMLA Leave Simply by Checking a Box on a Form?

Do you require your employees to fill out a form or an application to request leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act? If not, are you thinking of changing to such an approach? Either way, pay attention to this story about Carrie, whose particular leave situation is instructive for employers.

A Cruise Aboard the Love Boat is Not Protected by the FMLA, Even When the Doc Says It's a Good Idea

This post has nothing to do with Netflix and its new, generous parental leave policy. Or GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s latest position on paid leave. Sorry to disappoint.

Need To Investigate Employee Misconduct While the Employee is on FMLA Leave? Follow This Employer's Lead

Even once in awhile an employer has handled an FMLA situation so effectively, you just want to shout out, “You Go Girl!” . . . or let out a fist pump (like you just sank a 70-foot birdie) . . . or initiate a wild chest bump in the hallway with a colleague (after you just landed that new client).

DOL Issues Updated FMLA Notices and Forms Addressing GINA "Safe Harbor" Language Requirements

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued new versions of the agency's template Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) notices and certification forms, which have been approved for use for the next three years.

FMLA FAQ: If Your Employee Checks into the Hospital After Midnight, Is It an "Overnight Stay" under the FMLA?

Q: One of my employees complained of chest pains at work and later went to the emergency room at the local hospital. However, we have learned through his medical certification that he was not admitted to the hospital until after midnight. He spent most of the day in the hospital and was discharged later that same day. In total, he missed two days of work. Is this absence covered by the FMLA?

How Fowl! Is An Employee's Text and His Girlfriend's Report Enough to Establish Notice of Need for FMLA Leave? Not So Fast...

This one just smells fowl. Delbert (not sure if he goes by Del or Bert, so I’ll just call him Delbert) decided not to show up for work at Tyson Fresh Meats on December 28. Instead, he asked his girlfriend, who also worked for Tyson, to report his absence for him. She obliged and told Delbert’s supervisor that he “would be absent or late” on December 28. On that same day, Delbert texted his supervisor, stating that he was “having health issues, would be out a few days, and needed to see a doctor.”

DOL Publishes New FMLA Forms -- Good Through May 2018

Those sneaky little rascals! While the rest of us were enjoying our Memorial Day holiday, those crazy kids over at the Department of Labor were still working away. This time, they were busy posting the new model FMLA notices and medical certification forms. Expiration: May 31, 2018!

DOL Will Not Enforce Final FMLA Regulation Regarding Same-Sex Spouses in Four States

Last week, I reported that a federal district court in Texas had halted the DOL’s enforcement of its final rule that would allow employees to take FMLA leave for their same-sex spouse.

Does FMLA Cover In Vitro Fertilization? Does It Matter if Dad's Sperm is to Blame?

Is that all it takes to get you to click on my blog entry — make a reference to “sperm” in the blog title and post a silly photo of this little guy? That was like taking candy from a baby!

Employer's Lack of FMLA Compliance in Handling FMLA Leave Request is a Lesson for the Rest of Us

Want a glimpse into a world where an employer fails to maintain a legally compliant leave management process? Let me warn you — what you are about to read is not pretty and not for the faint of heart.

eLABORate: New Revisions to the Family Medical Leave Act Expand Coverage

On February 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor finalized a rule which extends the Family Medical Leave Act’s (“FMLA”) protections to married same-sex couples. The rule, originally proposed in June 2014, implements necessary policy changes resulting from the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark United States v. Windsor decision which overturned the section of the Defense of Marriage Act barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

DOL Final Rule Amends FMLA Definition of "Spouse"

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides that eligible employees of covered employers are entitled take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. On February 25, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Final Rule revising the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA to allow eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages to take FMLA-protected leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live. The DOL asserts that the amendment will afford spouses in same-sex marriages the same ability as all spouses to fully exercise their FMLA rights.

Employer Requires Employee to Work During FMLA Leave. Ummmm, Is This a Problem?

Sure, Joan, you can take a leave of absence, but you’re still going to work while you’re out, right?

If You Can’t Prove Your FMLA Notice was Received It May be Ineffective

One would think that giving an employee notice of his or her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) should be a rather uncomplicated process. Since every communication these days tends to be via email, when an employee is out, you could just send a quick e-mail asking for confirmation of the ongoing need for leave, right?

Employer Fails to Provide Leave of Absence to Probationary Employee, Pays the Price

Adam was a maintenance technician for EZEFLOW, a company which manufactures pipe fittings. He also was a marine corps veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Court Determines that Employer's FMLA Notice Sent by Email is Not Reliable (Sending Employer World into Tizzy)

We have a mini-FMLA crisis on our hands this week, and the courts are to blame. This issue involves the FMLA notices that employers send to employees, but more importantly, the delivery route in which they send them.

A Game-Changing Decision? Sending FMLA Notices to Employees by U.S. Mail May Not Cut It Anymore

With all the FMLA paperwork that a leave administrator has to provide an employee during the FMLA process, you’d wonder whether you’re attending a real estate closing. All these documents — whether it’s the Notice of Eligibility, medical certification, or the Designation Notice — typically get sent by good old fashioned snail mail, delivered by your friendly neighborhood U.S. postal worker.

DOL’s Proposed Rule Redefines FMLA’s Definition of “Spouse” to Recognize “Place of Celebration”

On June 20, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a press release announcing a proposed rule extending the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to all eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages regardless of where they live. The DOL is proposing this rule in light of the June 2013 United States v. Windsor decision, in which the Supreme Court of the United States struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits the definition of “marriage” to opposite-sex unions and “spouse” to individuals of the opposite sex who are married for purposes of over 1,100 federal laws and regulations. The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor left intact section 2 of DOMA, which expressly permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Does an Employer Have an Obligation to Provide Accommodations to Pregnant Employees? Don't Follow This Employer's Lead

Ena Wages served as a property manager for one of several apartment complexes owned by Stuart Management Corp. She began her employment on November 17, 2008, and this is significant under the FMLA because nearly one year later, on November 13, 2009, Ena’s physician restricted the number hours she could work as a result of complications caused by her pregnancy.

Employer's Improper and Untimely FMLA Notices Didn't Harm Employee, So No FMLA Violation

Here’s a shout out to all you employers out there who forget to send your employees the proper FMLA notices when they seek leave for a reason covered by the FMLA. Occasionally, the courts have your back, despite your lack of attention to detail.

Employer's Improper and Untimely FMLA Notices Didn't Harm Employee, So No FMLA Violation

Here’s a shout out to all you employers out there who forget to send your employees the proper FMLA notices when they seek leave for a reason covered by the FMLA. Occasionally, the courts have your back, despite your lack of attention to detail.

FMLA FAQ: Can an Employer Force an Employee on FMLA Leave When the Employee Wants to Continue to Work?

Q: This week, one of our employees professed her love to one of her co-workers (who is married) and announced to everyone that they had been dating. The problem is — it’s not true.

Depressed employee's vacation leave request did not qualify for FMLA protection.

The vacation request of an employee suffering from depression and anxiety did not qualify as a request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), said the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. While the request might prove medically beneficial, it did not qualify for FMLA protection, as it did not include any period of actual incapacity. Hurley v. Kent of Naples, Inc., 11th Cir., No. 13-10298, March 20, 2014.

Employees Can't Take FMLA Leave for "Potential" Absences in the Future

Did you ever have an employee tell you that he has medical condition "x," which will require time off at some point in the future? Normally, you tactfully tell him to come back when he actually needs time off, correct?

Vegas Trip Considered Legitimate FMLA Leave

Most human resources personnel know that under the Family Medical Leave Act, covered employers must give eligible employees twelve workweeks off in a twelve-month period “to care for” a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. However, what happens when caring for a terminally ill parent, physically and psychologically, brings the employee to Vegas for vacation? Recently, the Seventh Circuit Court held this constitutes “caring for” the family member and is a proper use of the leave.

FMLA FAQ: Can an Employer Designate FMLA Leave When an Employee Refuses to Provide Medical Certification?

I received a ton of feedback last week in response to my post about whether an employee can decline FMLA leave even though the absence qualifies under the Act.

Can an Indefinite Leave of Absence Be a Reasonable Accommodation?

One of the most difficult issues an HR professional or in-house employment counsel faces is how to deal with an employee who cannot return to work after FMLA leave expires. Is additional leave required? What law applies and what are the obligations for an employer in this situation?

ASK Fisher & Phillips: FMLA Request

We have an employee who was off for five days taking care of his sick wife. He has been with the dealership for more than a year and worked more than 1,250 hours last year. I sent him the FMLA paperwork. He called me and said that he did not want to use his time off for FMLA, and instead was just going to use unpaid time off. What do I do now?

DOL Lawsuit Highlights Simple Reality: Employers Who Ignore FMLA Regulations Face Severe Consequences

When an employer ignores the FMLA regulations as it ponders a termination decision, the consequences can be severe.

DOL Lawsuit Highlights Simple Reality: Employers Who Ignore FMLA Regulations Face Severe Consequences

When an employer ignores the FMLA regulations as it ponders a termination decision, the consequences can be severe.

The Importance of Providing Individual FMLA Notices to Employees

The Department of Labor was serious when it required employers beginning in 2009 to provide individual FMLA notices to employees regarding their eligibility and rights (Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities) and whether FMLA applies (Designation Notice).

DOL Celebrates FMLA’s 20th Anniversary with New Regulations

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) turned 20 years old on February 5, 2013. In celebration, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued new regulations. The new regulations cover 1) leave related to members or veterans of the military and 2) leave for airline flight crew employees. This article focuses on the former.

DOL Issues Final Rule Implementing FMLA Amendments Expanding Military Family Leave and Leave for Airline Flight Crew Members

This week, the Department of Labor released its final rule implementing the Family and Medical Leave Act amendments under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 (NDAA) and the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA). The final regulation also revises a handful of existing regulatory provisions, and removes the model FMLA forms from the appendices of the regulations. I reported on these proposed changes in greater detail in a previous blog post last year. The final rule takes effect March 8, 2013.

DOL Issues Final Rule Regarding FMLA Changes for Military Caregivers and Flight Crew

On February 6, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule to implement amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) made by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (NDAA) and the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA). To assist employers with compliance, the DOL has created a web page with a FAQ sheet on the final rule, a new FMLA poster, and a new Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave–Form WH-385-V.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidelines on Parents' Rights to FMLA Leave for Adult Children Care

Since its enactment in 1993, an unresolved issue under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA" or "the Act") was exactly how the definition of "son or daughter" under Section 101(12) of the Act applied to adult children, 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. In interpretive guidelines just issued by the U.S. Department of Labor ("USDOL"), which enforces the FMLA, the federal agency clarified that the age of a son or daughter at the onset of a disability is not relevant in determining a parent's entitlement to FMLA leave. Employers need to be aware that the new guidelines will expand the number of employees who will now be eligible to take FMLA leave to care for adult children.

Legal Alert: Department of Labor Issues New Guidance Clarifying FMLA Qualifying Leave

Executive Summary: The Department of Labor (DOL) has clarified the definition of "son or daughter" to now permit an eligible employee to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for an adult child who is incapable of self-care because of a disability, regardless of how old the child was when the disability commenced. This clarification also impacts the FMLA's military caregiver provision.

DOL Issues Guidance on "Caring for an Adult Child" Under the FMLA

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an Administrator's Interpretation (AI) to clarify the factors an employer must consider when an employee requests leave to care for an adult child.

An Employee Requests and is Denied Vacation Leave but Later Takes FMLA Leave for the Same Time Period. What Recourse Does an Employer Have?

This scenario is all too familiar for employers: shortly before Christmas, your employee requests vacation leave for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Due to seniority or the employee's last minute request for time off, her leave request is denied. However, like clockwork, she calls off sick and requests FMLA leave on Christmas Eve and NYE, claiming she can't work due to a flare up of her chronic bad back.

FMLA Leave for Same-Sex Couples to be Clarified by Supreme Court's DOMA Decision?

This past Friday, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would consider whether the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unlawfully denies benefits to gay and lesbian couples who are married in states that allow such unions. A Supreme Court decision nullifying DOMA could have wide ranging impacts, including how the Family and Medical Leave Act covers "caring for a spouse."

The Seventh Circuit Examines What Constitutes Notice of Employee Eligibility for FMLA Leave

Employers often find that administering Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies can prove to be one of the more challenging aspects of personnel management, particularly because employees are required to place their employer on notice of only the probable basis for FMLA leave to qualify for it. Employees do not need to specifically refer to the FMLA, as long as they have alerted their employer to the seriousness of the health condition. A general reference to being “sick” is not enough, but providing specifics about more serious medical concerns is often sufficient to warn the employer that the employee may qualify for FMLA leave. In two companion cases, the Seventh Circuit considered whether employees provided sufficient notice to their respective employers of their need for FMLA leave.

What!?! Time Caring for Mom in Las Vegas is FMLA Leave

The FMLA just got a whole lot broader. In what might be one of the key FMLA decisions of the year, a federal judge has upheld an employee's right to take FMLA leave to care for her mother during a recreational trip to Las Vegas. Yep . . . you read it correctly. Employee + her mother + their trip together to Vegas = FMLA leave

Employee's signs of severe emotional distress and anxiety may constitute a "report" of the need for FMLA leave.

To state a claim of interference under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee must show that he or she has put the employer on notice that an absence may be covered by the FMLA. This ordinarily means that at least verbal notice must be provided to the employer within one or two business days of the point at which the need for leave becomes known to the employee. Recently, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in an employer’s favor, holding that an employee’s signs of severe distress and anxiety were sufficient to inform her employer of the possible need for medical leave. Clinkscale v. St. Therese of Hope, 8th Cir., No. 12-1223, November 13, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy and the FMLA (Part II): How Do Employers Calculate FMLA Leave When the Workplace Closes Because of the Storm?

Thanks for the great feedback we received on our post earlier this week about Hurricane Sandy's impact on employers when it comes to issues arising under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In your feedback, I received several requests to address the following question:

Failing to Follow Call-in Procedures Dooms Employee's FMLA Claim

Later this week, I am conducting FMLA training for management employees at one of our clients. The training will focus on how the employer can utilize its own current personnel policies to properly administer FMLA leave and combat FMLA abuse. During this training, I am going to tell them about Ritenour v. State of Tennessee. Why? Because it's a great example of how an employer properly applied its call-in policy to discipline and ultimately terminate an employee who chose to ignore her obligation to timely report her absences.

When Has an Employee Provided Sufficient Notice of the Need for FMLA Leave?

Often enough, HR professionals tell me that they have a difficult time recognizing when an employee has provided adequate notice of the need for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. A recent court case reminds us that: 1) the threshold for requesting leave is not that high; and 2) employers have an obligation to ask questions to determine whether FMLA leave may be at issue.

Visit to doctor for prescription refill is not "treatment" for purposes of FMLA.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid leave time to eligible employees under specific circumstances, including the serious health condition of the employee. It is a violation of the FMLA for an employer to interfere with an employee’s use or attempted use of FMLA leave time. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an employee who did not receive actual medical treatment during a specific absence could not support an FMLA interference claim for his termination. Jones v. C&D Technologies, Inc., 7th Cir, No. 11-3400, June 28, 2012.

Is Time Spent Filling Your Prescription at Walgreens Covered by FMLA?

Take Bob. He is a machine operator. Bob suffers from back and leg pain as well as bouts of anxiety. As a result, he typically visits with his physician every couple of months and is on prescription medication. He's been approved for intermittent FMLA leave as a result of his serious health condition(s).

DOL's New Employee Guide to the FMLA Issued: What's the Impact on Employers?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a 16-page FMLA guide that the DOL says is "designed to answer common FMLA questions and clarify who can take FMLA leave and what protections the FMLA provides." Entitled "Need Time? The Employee's Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act," the Guide apparently was created out of DOL's belief that "too many workers don't know about their rights under the FMLA and fail to take advantage of its protections," as stated in a DOL press release earlier this week.

It's a Fact: Employers Often Can Designate FMLA Leave in Longer Increments Than the Actual Leave Taken

In a recent post, I discussed an employer's obligation to designate leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act even though the employee did not want it to be classified as FMLA leave.

FMLA FAQ: Must an Employer Designate FMLA Leave When the Employee Does Not Want to Use FMLA Leave, or When the Employee Fails to Mention FMLA?

One of our employees will be absent for a serious health condition. However, the employee prefers to use his accrued sick days instead of FMLA leave.

Taking FMLA leave does not affect employee's obligations under non-FMLA attendance policies.

Employment termination during an employee’s leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may constitute “interference” with that leave. However, an employer typically does not violate the FMLA if it terminates an employee for failing to comply with the company’s policies regarding absences, even if those absences occur during a protected FMLA leave. A recent decision by the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reminds us that the FMLA is not a law that can remedy an employee’s failure to follow a company’s sick leave policies. Pellegrino v. Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, CLC, 3d Cir., No.11-2639, April 19, 2012.

DOL's Model FMLA Forms Now Approved Through 2015. Details Here...

As I reported last month, the Department of Labor has been working with the Office of Management and Budget to extend the life of its model FMLA forms, which expired on December 31, 2011. If you checked the DOL website today, you would find that the Department now has approval to use its model FMLA forms through February 28, 2015.

FMLA FAQ: Can an Employer Deny FMLA Leave to An Employee Who Is Not Yet Eligible to Take Leave?

Q: Can an Employer Deny FMLA Leave to An Employee Who Is Not Yet Eligible to Take Leave?

Best Practices: FMLA Leave to Care for an Adult Child

Perhaps it's just me, but I recently have received several calls from clients inquiring about an employee's right to take FMLA leave to care for an adult child (i.e., age 18 or older). Some examples include: Can a grandparent take FMLA leave to care for her daughter after the birth of her baby? Or can an employee take leave to care for an adult child suffering from depression? The answer is not always an easy one. What are an employer's obligations when an employee seeks leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for an adult child? (I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I hope it's worth the read.)

To invoke FMLA protection for care of another, some geographic proximity is required by the employee.

In an unpublished opinion, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an individual who requests FMLA leave to care for a seriously ill family member must have some role in providing the “care” required by the relative’s illness. According to the Fifth Circuit, a father who left his seriously injured daughter in the care of his wife while he readied the family’s home for their return was unable to support a claim for FMLA retaliation after he was fired from his job at the conclusion of his FMLA leave.

Insufficient medical information justifies refusal of FMLA leave.

The federal regulations that support the Family and Medical Leave Act require that an employee submit to his or her employer certain medical facts within the knowledge of the employee’s health care provider, including information related to the incapacitation, examination, or treatment that may be required by a health care provider. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a federal employer had the discretion to convert an employee’s conditionally granted FMLA leave to an “absent without leave (“AWOL”) status after the employee refused to provide more than minimal information about the reasons for her requested leave.

Employee's FMLA Claim Dismissed After Taking a Trip to Cancun

Employees should think twice before setting off on a Cancun vacation while out on FMLA leave. In an FMLA decision that smacks of pure common sense, a federal court has upheld an employer's reasonable work rules that restricted an employee's travel outside the immediate vicinity while on FMLA leave.

Are Employees Eligible for FMLA Leave When A Natural Disaster Strikes?

Natural disasters like the kind we recently have witnessed in the flood-ravaged areas of the southern United States raise a host of issues for employers. Some wonder whether they are required to pay their employees during suspended operations; others are unsure whether and to what extent health benefits should be offered.

FMLA FAQ - Does a phone call to the doctor count as "treatment"?

An employee recently missed five days of work due to the flu. She did not visit the doctor, but did call in to the doctor's office while she was out. Based upon the call, the doctor wrote her a prescription for some medication. Does this count as FMLA leave?

Where FMLA Bonding Leave is at Issue, Unmarried Parents Have More Generous Leave Rights

The folks at the California Public Agency Labor and Employment blog yesterday raised an issue that has popped up from time to time with our own clients: When it comes to "baby bonding" leave, does the Family and Medical Leave Act provide more generous benefits for unmarried parents than it does for married parents? In short, the answer is Yes.

Employee's Failure to Return Supervisor's Phone Calls Dooms FMLA Claim

When an employee's request for medical leave is vague or is unclear, the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations specifically allow (in fact, they require) the employer to question the employee further to determine whether the absence potentially qualifies under the FMLA. When the employee fails to respond to these reasonable inquiries, the employee may lose the right to FMLA protection.

Employee's failure to respond to phone calls from employer regarding his request for FMLA leave precludes a claim against employer under that Act.

Most employers recognize that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) prohibits them from denying, restraining, or interfering with an employee’s rights to qualified leave. Last week’s Update addressed a situation in which an employer’s frequent phone calls to the employee asking when she would return to work while she was on FMLA leave may have interfered with that employee’s FMLA rights.

FMLA FAQ - Does Travel Time Count as FMLA Leave?

One of our employees has asked for leave to care for a family member in another state. Does the travel time to and from the family member count as part of the FMLA leave?

FMLA FAQ - How do snow days affect FMLA leave?

Like many employers, we were closed yesterday due to the massive blizzard. We have an employee out on FMLA leave. Do I count the snow day against this employee's 12-week leave entitlement?

Employer can require compliance with call-in policy, even during FMLA leave.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an employee who was fired for repeatedly violating her employer’s call-in policy cannot proceed with her lawsuit under the FMLA.

FMLA FAQ - How do I calculate FMLA leave around the holidays?

I have an employee who is certified for FMLA leave. Our office is closed for Thanksgiving next Thursday and Friday. Do those days count as FMLA leave.

Knowledge of Employee's Cancer and Discussion of FMLA Enough to Support Discharge Claim.

According to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, an employee may have a valid wrongful discharge claim under the FMLA even if she fails to actually request FMLA leave, based upon evidence that her employer was aware that she had cancer and discussed whether she had taken FMLA leave shortly before her termination.

Employee's Failure To Call In Defeats FMLA Claim

Under the FMLA rules, an employer may require employees seeking FMLA leave to comply with its "usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave," except in "unusual circumstances" that prevent the employee from doing so. A recent decision by a federal district court in Tennessee demonstrates how this provision can be exceedingly useful to employers in managing FMLA leave. Ritenour v Tenn Dept of Human Services (.pdf).

Failure to Follow Employer's Leave Procedures Dooms FMLA Claim.

Employers frustrated with their employees' lack of communication during FMLA leave have found a friend in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In what must be described as a solid win for employers, the appellate court (which covers IL, IN and WI) affirmed the dismissal of a former employee's Family and Medical Leave Act claim against the company that fired her after she failed to provide proper notice under the company's policies for an extension of leave.

Impaired Employee May Be Excused From Heightened Reporting Requirement for FMLA Leave.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal has held that an impaired individual may not be required to comply directly with her employer’s heightened reporting requirements associated with FMLA leave. Saenz v. Harlingen Medical Center, LP, 5th Circ., No. 09-40887, August 2, 2010.

Impaired employee may be excused from heightened reporting requirement for FMLA leave.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal has held that an impaired individual may not be required to comply directly with her employer’s heightened reporting requirements associated with FMLA leave.

DOL Clarifies FMLA Definition Of "Son Or Daughter".

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued an "Administrator's Interpretation" on the definition of "son or daughter" under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The federal law allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for a number of reasons, including for the adoption or the birth of a child or to care for a son or daughter with a "serious health condition." The interpretation, issued by Nancy Leppink, Deputy Administrator of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division, would broaden the definition of persons who stand in loco parentis so as to include employees in same-sex or other non-traditional relationships (without regard to their legal or biological relationship with the child).

FMLA Insights Podcast - "An Employee Has Requested FMLA Leave. Now What Do I Do?"

Many employers have a difficult time properly responding to an employee request for leave, a process that the new FMLA regulations expect the employer to master. What are employer responsibilities when responding to a request for leave?

DOL to Conduct "FMLA survery": Is More Regulatory Change on the Horizon?

On the campaign trail, then candidate Barack Obama promised to work aggressively on work-family balance if he was elected president. In doing so, he clearly signaled a movement toward pursuing additional rights for employees to permit them to better balance their workplace duties and their personal and family lives. This "movement," however, has been stalled by the health care debate, the conflict in Iraq, and the Gulf Oil mess.

The Importance of Clear, Accurate Notices

Two recent federal appeals court decisions highlight the importance of providing employees with clear, accurate information about their FMLA rights. First, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently held in Kobus v. The College of St. Scholastica, Inc. that a painter employed by the college could not prevail on his FMLA claims because he failed to return a completed medical certification form confirming that he had a serious medical condition. The court focused on the fact that the college's policies and the plaintiff's supervisor clearly advised the plaintiff of the certification requirement.

Podcast No. 13: Interpreting The New DOL Interpretation Of "In Loco Parentis"

On June 22 the U.S. Department of Labor issued its first Administrator Interpretation under the FMLA, "clarifying" how the FMLA applies to requests for leave by those who provide care for a child without a biological or legal relationship to the child. In this month's podcast, we explain what's new in this interpretation, what isn't, and what it means for employers.

DOL Permits FMLA Leave for Gay Parents and Others Caring For a Child.

On June 22, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an Administrator Interpretation (.pdf) to clarify the definition of a “son or daughter” under the FMLA to ensure that an employee who seeks time off work to care for a child receives FMLA leave regardless of the employee’s legal or biological relationship with the child. Although the DOL interpretation arguably does not change existing law, many consider it a huge win for nontraditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community who, the DOL asserts, “often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones.”

FMLA rights regarding childcare may apply without specific legal or biological relationship.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) establishes protected leave for specific circumstances, including the birth or placement of a son or daughter, care of a newborn or newly placed son or daughter, and care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition. On June 22, 2010, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor issued Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2010-3 in response to requests for guidance regarding whether employees who do not have a biological or legal relationship with a child may take FMLA leave for birth, bonding, and to care for the child.

DOL Expands Leave Rights Under FMLA.

On June 22, 2010 the Department of Labor issued an Administrative Interpretation clarifying the definition of "son or daughter" under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with respect to non-military leave. The new Interpretation grants leave rights to individuals who assume the responsibilities of a parent by providing day-to-day care or financial support for a child, regardless of whether there is a legal or biological relationship between the individual and the child.

DOL Permits FMLA Leave for Gay Parents and Others Caring For a Child.

On June 22, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an Administrator Interpretation to clarify the definition of a “son or daughter” under the FMLA to ensure that an employee who seeks time off work to care for a child receives FMLA leave regardless of the employee’s legal or biological relationship with the child. While the DOL interpretation arguably does not change existing law, many consider it a huge win for nontraditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community who, the DOL asserts, “often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones.”

New FMLA and New York Employee Privacy Requirements.

New U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) take effect on January 16, 2009. They implement two types of new military family leave (Military Caregiver leave and Qualifying Exigency leave) and update and clarify the existing FMLA regulations. In addition, a recent amendment to the New York Labor Law, effective January 3, 2009, restricts an employer’s use and disclosure of an employee’s personal identifying information, including an employee’s social security number.

New FMLA Regulations Take Effect.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations issued late last year by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) took effect on January 16, 2009. According to Al Robinson, a shareholder with the firm's Washington, D.C. office and the former acting Administrator of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division (which enforces the FMLA): "The new regulations change the pro-vision of family and medical leave in the workplace, particularly the new basis for leave for families of individuals in the military. As a result, employers must become familiar with these changes and adjust their policies accordingly."

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR FINALIZES NEW FMLA REGULATIONS (pdf).

On November 17, 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued the first new regulations governing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) since the law’s 1993 enactment. The final regulations, which take effect January 16, are intended to be more “user-friendly” for both employers and employees.

Calling In Sick Without Providing Additional Information is Not Sufficient to Trigger FMLA.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. The FMLA specifically prohibits employers from interfering with an employee’s attempt to exercise his or her rights under that Act. In order to exercise those rights on the basis of an employee’s own “serious medical condition,” the employee must provide notice to the employer of the seriousness of the health condition that forms the basis of the leave request. Recently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that calling in sick, without providing additional information, does not provide sufficient notice of a “serious health condition” under the FMLA.

Third Circuit Rejects Controversial FMLA Regulation.

Joining other federal courts, the Third Circuit recently rejected a Department of Labor regulation, 29 C.F.R. §825.110(d), which deems an employee eligible for FMLA leave, even if the employee does not satisfy the FMLA’s eligibility requirements, when an employer fails to advise an employee of his/her eligibility after leave is requested. Here, the plaintiff had not worked the required 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding her requested leave, but her employer failed to respond to her request for FMLA leave for the birth of her child.

Refusal To Provide Medical Certification Dooms Worker's FMLA Case.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by an employee who was fired after she refused to provide medical documentation substantiating her need for a reduced work schedule. According to the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over Illinois, the employer “cannot be deemed to retaliate against an employee by asking her to fulfill her obligations” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA: Labor Department Releases Revisions (pdf).

Highlights of the proposed changes.

DOL Publishes Long-Awaited Proposals to Update FMLA Regulations.

For some time now, business groups have been calling for a substantial overhaul of FMLA regulations that have proven to be unduly vague, cumbersome, and in some cases, completely out of touch with the realities of today’s workplace. It seems that those requests are no longer falling on deaf ears. On February 11th, the Department of Labor took a substantial step toward regulatory reform by publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. Once implemented, the final rules will contain regulatory language based upon comments submitted during the review process. Although a final set of new regulations is still months away, a spokesperson for the administration expressed her desire to implement changes by the end of President Bush’s term. The proposed rules will remain open for public comment through April 11, 2008.

Verbal Notice Sufficient to Relay Intend to Take FMLA Leave (pdf).

Court reinstates workers interference claim.

DOL to Publish FMLA Proposals: Changes to Existing Regulations and Comments on New Military Family Leave.

On Monday, February 11, 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is expected to publish in the Federal Register a dual-purpose proposal on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The DOL's first purpose is to propose revisions to certain existing FMLA regulations. These are the first proposed changes to the existing regulations since the FMLA was passed in 1993. The other reason for the proposal is to request public comments on a wide variety of issues related to the new military family leave entitlements that were contained in the National Defense Authorization Act. The DOL will use these comments to issue final regulations for these new military family leave entitlements.