Based on our experience advising hundreds of employers and closely watching court rulings on cases around the country, we offer a few tips for complying with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Employers should follow their own policies with respect to FMLA leave and requests for time off. To avoid potential issues, employers should ensure that they have established, formal policies in place regarding the FMLA and leave programs. These policies should include directing employees how to request FMLA leave, and a robust policy for calling out of work, among other things.
Once those policies are in place, employers should follow their policies, including by directing employees to HR when they request FMLA leaves outside the established channels. In certain situations, disputes have arisen over whether employees have satisfied their FMLA notice obligations through informal messages, such as through text or social media messages. If an informal message is received through text or social media, managers should let the employee know that they appreciate the communication, but they need to follow the company’s established channels for requesting time off work. Managers should then let human resources know of the situation for proper follow-up. Setting expectations for reporting absences and requests for time off early and often will help ensure the company’s FMLA compliance and avoid future disputes about whether proper notice was provided.
Employers should train managers and HR to recognize circumstances that may trigger FMLA and to follow and enforce the company’s established process for reporting the need for time off. Employers should ensure that their managers and supervisors are aware of and adhere to the company’s policies for attendance and FMLA leave. When employees request leave from managers/supervisors, whether formally or informally, those individuals should report those requests to HR for handling.