Several years ago, the DOL published the “Employee's Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act”. Recently, the DOL issued the “Employer's Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act”, which is available on the DOL website. The 76 page PDF begins with this message from the DOL:

Since its enactment in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has served as the cornerstone of the Department of Labor's efforts to promote work-life balance and we have worked in support of the principle that no worker should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love. With the FMLA, our country made it a priority to give workers the ability to balance the demands of work and family. It made the healthy development of babies, healthy families, and healthy workplaces a priority. It was a remarkable accomplishment at the time and, since its enactment, the FMLA has been used more than 100 million times to help workers balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of their families and their own health.

A review of this “Guide” will be helpful for employers who have to address FMLA issues in the workplace. The seven chapters address:

  1. COVERED EMPLOYERS UNDER THE FMLA AND THEIR GENERAL NOTICE REQUIREMENTS;
  2. WHEN AN EMPLOYEE NEEDS FMLA LEAVE;
  3. QUALIFYING REASONS FOR LEAVE;
  4. THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS;
  5. MILITARY FAMILY LEAVE;
  6. DURING AN EMPLOYEE'S FMLA LEAVE;
  7. FMLA PROHIBITIONS.

This document is a good starting point for employers if they have questions concerning FMLA issues. However, as with any governmental guidance, from the DOL, EEOC or other regulatory agency, this Guide sets forth the postion of the DOL, and some of their assertions may be found to be incorrect should an employer challenge the DOL or an individual employee in a legal proceding. Employers should contact their legal counsel concerning FMLA questions since there are numerous issues that may not be fully explained or addressed in this Guidance, and interpreting the FMLA can be difficult at times. The DOL has also announced that it will soon be publishing an updated mandatory FMLA poster. Once this is made available, I will update you with the new form and the effective date.

Practice pointer. In light of the fact that DOL has gone through the trouble of publishing this extensive guide for employers, I believe that this is an indication that they will step up enforcement of the FMLA around the country. According to DOL, the FMLA has been used over 100 million times since 1993. Violations of the FMLA can be costly and time consuming to employers, so be careful out there.