The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has released a 16-page guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) designed to make the law more accessible to employees. The publication, titled “Need Time? The Employee’s Guide to The Family and Medical Leave Act,” provides a basic overview of the FMLA. Through a combination of text, flow charts, and examples, it answers common questions that employees may have about their rights under the Act. The guide is available on the DOL’s website at www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf.
Guide offers explanations for employers and employees
Although the guide is specifically designed for employees, it also offers useful information for employers. For one thing, it’s written in plain English, which makes it easy to understand. For that reason, the document serves as a valuable refresher on the basic rights and protections afforded to employees by the FMLA as well as the obligations that the statute places on employers. For example, it includes a flow chart that employers may find useful when determining whether an employee is eligible for FMLA leave.
The guide also reminds employees of their own responsibilities under the Act. For instance, it notifies employees of their obligation to provide their employer with appropriate notice of the need for leave. Additionally, it reminds employees that they are responsible, at their own expense, for ensuring that their employer receives a timely, complete, and sufficient medical certification form. Likewise, the guide advises workers that requests for FMLA leave may be denied if they fail to provide their employer with requested medical certifications. Finally, as a practical matter, the guide stresses the need for employees to communicate with their employers.
A word of caution
Many employers that are well-versed in the FMLA may not be inclined to use or familiarize themselves with the guide. However, it’s important for all employers to understand that the guide also advises workers, in specific detail, about an employer’s obligations to its employees. For example, it states that you must notify an employee of his FMLA eligibility, rights, and responsibilities within five business days of either the employee’s request for leave or when you become aware that the employee may qualify for FMLA leave. Additionally, you must notify employees within five business days if a leave request has in fact been designated as FMLA leave.
Further, the guide informs employees of their right to continued health benefits while on leave and their right to be returned to the same or nearly identical position upon their return from FMLA leave. Most importantly, you should be aware that the guide contains an entire page of detailed information informing employees about how to file a complaint with the DOL if they feel their FMLA rights have been violated.
One of many resources
In the end, while the guide can be a helpful and informative resource to employers and employees alike, it doesn’t address a number of the complex regulations and issues associated with the FMLA. As a result, you shouldn’t treat the guide as authoritative. Rather, you should continue to seek advice when appropriate.
James Rooney is a member of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, in the Buffalo office. He can be reached at email@example.com or 716-566-2859.