In this age of information explosion, it always comes as a surprise when an employer faces penalties for violations of FMLA or overtime regulations. Look at the recent case of the Alabama Detention Center being penalized for terminating an employee who was on approved medical leave, subject to FMLA protection. One reason for such an oversight could be the employer’s overriding anxiety about loss of productivity and pressures with performance.
The FMLA provides an eligible employee the right to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave and continuing health care coverage on usual terms. The leave may be taken all at one time or in installments, depending on medical advice and requirements. The employer cannot interfere with or prohibit the employee from an exercise of the right to FMLA leave:
When employees abuse the FMLA, the employer ends up bearing the burden of loss in productivity and increased overtime payments to other employees. The only protection offered by the law to employers is the right to require medical certification to validate the FMLA claim. Cases of chronic medical conditions like migraines, PSTD and many other instances are particularly difficult for employers, as these types of illnesses provide greatest opportunities for abuse.
Some of the burning questions that employers face are listed below:
The employer needs to be on solid ground when disallowing the claim of any sickness to FMLA protection. If and when the employer manages to prove an employee’s false claim, they may discipline the employee as they deem fit. Employers must demonstrate that the employee failed to substantiate their FMLA claim with legitimate medical documentation. The employer can even ask for a second and third opinion before granting leave; and the employee may be asked to provide reasonable advance warning when availing FMLA-related absences.
Let us look at what employers can do to mitigate such concerns – in our next post (Ten Rules to help Employers with FMLA Claims).
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