Schoenfeld, a Senior Legal Editor for BLR's human resources and employment law publications, offers five strategies for reducing FMLA abuse in your organization.
Training supervisors about how the FMLA and your leave policies work should be your first step. Frontline supervisors are your eyes and ears, and employers depend upon them for information about potential FMLA abuse issues.
Providing even thirty minutes of training for supervisors each year can be effective. At the very least, it will sensitize them to the importance of giving you a heads-up when potential problems arise.
Once you have received a request for leave, an important rule in reducing abuse is to make sure the employee is actually eligible. Before assuming an employee is eligible for FMLA leave, take the time to run the eligibility traps. Sometimes employers find themselves first granting FMLA leave, only to later realize that the employee was not eligible.
Employers should consistently require certification—and recertification—of an employee's serious health condition. The certification process can block or limit some questionable leaves, and simply requiring employees to go through the process lets them know you are not asleep at the wheel when dealing with FMLA absences.
To get the best results, attach the employee's job description or a list of essential functions to the certification form so that the health care provider can accurately assess whether the employee is truly incapacitated from doing his or her specific job.
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Don't settle for marginal medical certifications. Employers should require employees to provide satisfactory, detailed, and informative certifications as a condition of FMLA leave. If they don't do so, follow up using all of the tools allowed you by the regulations—that is, require the employee to correct the certification, or use authentication and clarification, as allowed by FMLAs regulations.
Finally, says Schoenfeld, throughout an employee's absence, keep track of their use of FMLA leave and remind them from time to time how much leave they have used and how much they have remaining. Doing so can be particularly valuable when wrestling with intermittent leave. And don't be afraid to seek recertification if you learn info raising questions about the stated use of the leave.
FMLA hassles—they just won't go away, will they? And, now, of course, there are all the new FMLA responsibilities—like military leave and reinstatement. Shell-shocked?
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