Is the fifth time the charm? On July 30, 2010, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin introduced the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, which would broaden the Family and Medical Leave Act to permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent who has a serious health condition. S.B. 3680 (pdf) is nearly identical to H.B. 2132, which has been pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, and that (based on our count) has been introduced in the House on four occasions. What’s notable about S.B. 3680, of course, is that it now is on track to be considered by the Senate for the first time.
Articles discussing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) an other topics related to workplace leave.
Under the FMLA, an employer’s obligation to provide leave arises only after an employee gives notice that he or she needs FMLA leave. However, it is well-established that an employee need not explicitly mention the FMLA when requesting leave. Rather, an employee’s notice is sufficient if it gives the employer enough information to reasonably conclude that the employee may need leave for an FMLA-qualifying reason.
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.
For employers, it pays to listen closely to the reason for which an employee requests time off, since the reason may not always be covered by the FMLA. Kind of like occasions when the employee tells you he needs time off to clean his mother’s flooded basement.
Managing long-term intermittent leave has long been one of the central problems for employers administering FMLA leave. Particularly problematic is the employee who presents a certification suggesting that he or she will need unscheduled leave with little or no notice to the employer over a period of months or years based upon self-diagnosed, unverifiable symptoms such as pain or fatigue. A recent decision by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals suggests that, at least in some cases, such a leave request need not be granted because the need for frequent, unscheduled, unpredictable leave over an extended period of time can render an employee unqualified for duty.
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.
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.
A couple weeks ago, as I was preparing a witness for his deposition (in a Title VII and FMLA case), it dawned on both of us that his deposition would take place mere hours after the deciding Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Well, we stand corrected. While we said in our summary of the DOL’s new Administrator Interpretation (.pdf) on the issue of FMLA leave for those standing in loco parentis for a child that the new interpretation “arguably does not change existing law,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis evidently thinks that it does. Writing in the Huffington Post, Secretary Solis had this to say about the new interpretation:
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.”