HR Management & Compliance

FMLA virtual summit provides opportunity to speak with lawyers

On January 16, 2009, all employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will have a new batch of regulations to contend with. To help HR professionals prepare, M. Lee Smith Publishers offered its first-ever, FMLA virtual summit — a day-long event during which participants could watch online, listen on the phone, and interact with employment law experts John B. Phillips Jr., Kara E. Shea, and Stacie L. Caraway, attorneys with the law firm Miller & Martin.

Caraway led the segment of the program on the new FMLA regs. A significant portion of her discussion was devoted to the new regulations granting protected leave for military family members.

“Getting used to the idea that there is a whole new category of leave (military) that has its own unique set of documentation and eligibility requirements” could be one of the most troubling aspects of the new FMLA regs, Caraway noted.

While there isn’t as much help for employers in the new FMLA regs as had been hoped, Caraway pointed out some employer-friendly changes. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has given employers new medical certification forms to help clarify that process. Additionally, she noted that employers benefit from the burden now being put on employees to give (1) employers notice, using the employers’ usual notice policies, when they are going to be out on intermittent FMLA leave or (2) a reason why they did not do so.

Caraway enjoyed receiving questions submitted by participants in real time during the summit. “They let us know they were paying attention to even subtle nuances on the topic and also helped us know which points to emphasize as we discussed the new regulations and reviewed the existing provisions of the FMLA,” she said. “We received some good questions and were able to incorporate many of them into the presentation in a way it is sometimes difficult to do if people are just raising their hands in an in- person ‘live’ setting.”

Another advantage of the virtual summit formats was that “those who participated felt more at liberty to ask questions since they were able to do so pretty much anonymously via their computers rather than face-to-face or in front of other people,” opined Caraway.

Caraway said the most important thing for employers to realize about the new FMLA regs is “the January 16, 2009, effective date of these new regulations [is] a reason not only to review their FMLA policy (and to make sure this policy and their FMLA poster are up to date!) but also to review other policies, like their ‘call in’ policy, their overtime policy, some job descriptions, and their general leave of absence policies to see if changes need to be made to these so that they can get the maximum benefit in administering FMLA leave from the new regulations.”

Need more information about the new FMLA regs? You can buy a DVD of the presentation at www.hrhero.com/FMLAsummit/?. You can also tune in to “Understand the New FMLA Regulations: What Changes on January 16” an audio conference being presented December 17 and January 8 and 29 by employment law attorneys David Fortney, Susan Webman, and Rodney Satterwhite. Sign up for that audio conference at www.hrhero.com/audio/JanuaryFMLAregs?. For more information on either the audio conferences or the virtual summit, call M. Lee Smith Publishers customer service at (800) 274-6774.