HR Management & Compliance

15 Tactics to Prevent FMLA Abuse

By Kate McGovern Tornone, Editor

As evidenced by a session from the 2016 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference & Exposition held last month in Washington D.C., Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) abuse continues to be hot topic for employers.

In his presentation, FMLA: What It Is and How to Prevent Abuse, Steven Johnson, human resources coordinator for the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana., offered several proactive measures employers can take to combat FMLA abuse. Here are Johnson’s suggestions:

  1. Train your managers. Human resources should be in regular contact with managers who have employees on FMLA leave. Your managers need to enforce your call-out procedure and may have insight on absence patterns, Johnson said.
  2. Use the rolling method for tracking leave. Under this method, the 12-month leave period is measured backward from the date on which the employee uses FMLA leave. Each time the employee takes leave, his remaining balance is equal to the portion of the 12-week leave entitlement that was not used in the immediately preceding 12 months. Other methods allow for stacking FMLA leaves.
  3. Require concurrent leaves. Require that employees use any available paid time off concurrently with their FMLA leave.
  4. Treat people consistently. Don’t offer an extra 1 or 2 weeks’ leave to employees in an inconsistent manner. Have a policy in place that, for example, states that department heads may grant 30 days’ personal leave; suggest that employees request that if they need more time off. (Note that this does not take the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into account.
  5. Require annual certification. HR can require recertification as often as every 30 days, under certain circumstances.
  6. Request more information. If you doubt the validity of an employee’s medical certification, ask for a second opinion (at the employer’s expense). If it varies greatly from the first, get a third opinion. Insist that all questions be answered and request further explanation for answers like “as needed” or “TBD,” Johnson said.
  7. Watch for patterns. Is someone using intermittent FMLA leave every Wednesday? Find out what’s going on every Tuesday night, Johnson said.

Read on for the other 8 tactics.