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In many organizations employees report to their manager that they need time off from work and little if any information is shared as to the reason for the time off.   The manager may be inquisitive but in many instances the questions concern when the employee will return.   The manager generally has little to no knowledge of FMLA and may or may not have Human Resource assistance readily available.

We continue to see situations where an employee, eligible for FMLA and absent due to a qualifying reason, has been off for a lengthy period and only then does senior management / human resources become aware of the absences. The employee has never been presented with FLMA forms and there is uncertainty as to how to handle the situation.

Managers / Supervisors must be made aware when a request for leave is made they have the right and responsibility to obtain sufficient information from the employee as to determine if the leave is potentially eligible for FMLA.  Below are the Department of Labor qualifying reasons for FMLA :

  • 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, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave). 

If the reason is presented is in one of the above categories the employer MUST IMMEDIATELY provide the employee with the necessary FMLA forms (DOL FMLA form repository – https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/forms.htm).  If the leave is requested via phone and we do not have access to the employee, employee is already out, the FMLA forms MUST BE MAILED (certified mail is highly recommended as is maintaining a copy of everything sent to the employee) under a cover letter providing instructions on what should be completed, deadline for return of the form(s), and contact information for questions.

Employees that do not have the necessary forms completed and do not seek assistance can be addressed under disciplinary procedures.

Please feel free to share the SMART – HR Tip with anyone that may find benefit.

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