Has it really been 20 years since President Clinton signed the law establishing the federal right to leaves of absence for many who work for larger employers? While many employees have appreciated the benefits of job-protected time away from work, HR managers and business owners have confronted complex amendments, regulations, rules, and scores of lawsuits. The DOL recently issued new regulations, forms and interpretations. Employers should take the time to update kitchen postings and ensure they understand current FMLA requirements.

The first 20 years: In earlier posts (first of a four-part series; second installment; third installment, and final installment), we outlined the traditional requirements of the FMLA and related Washington law. For more detail, we provided this comprehensive article which will be updated this summer. We more recently noted a link to new regulations expanding FMLA benefits for military caregivers.

New regulations: The US Department of Labor released 115 pages of new rules applying to military caregiver leave, qualifying exigency leave, and leave for airline flight crew employees. The DOL’s summary of the main provisions of the new rule can be found here.

New forms and posters: In case you missed it, a new poster should be adorning your workplace. A number of other FMLA forms are available on the DOL website. Check in periodically, since DOL may update the forms.

New spin: On the eve of FMLA’s 20th birthday, the Department of Labor took the opportunity to trumpet the success of the FMLA, with statistics that seem at odds with our experience. Specifically, the DOL claims that:

  • 91% of employers find that complying with the FMLA has had either a positive effect or no noticeable effect on absenteeism, turnover and morale.
  • 85% of employers say that complying with the FMLA is very easy, somewhat easy, or has no noticeable effect.
  • 24% of FMLA leave is intermittent leave, and fewer than 2% of employees who take intermittent leave do so a day or less at a time.
  • Employee misuse of FMLA is rare.

Our experience is closer to the findings on a SHRM survey from 2007, which found more frequent problems with FMLA, particularly with intermittent leave and employee misuse of the law.