Employer Obligations under the FMLA: Compliance with Leave Requests and Job Restoration
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides eligible employees with job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. While employees must adhere to specific requirements to qualify for FMLA leave, employers also have important obligations under the FMLA. In this article, we will explore employer obligations regarding compliance with leave requests and job restoration for employees exercising their FMLA rights.
Granting FMLA Leave Requests
Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for qualifying reasons. When an employee requests FMLA leave, it is the employer’s obligation to comply with the request, provided the employee meets the necessary eligibility requirements. Key employer obligations regarding granting FMLA leave requests include:
a) Notice of Eligibility: When an employee requests FMLA leave, the employer must provide written notice within five business days to inform the employee of their eligibility status and provide the necessary FMLA paperwork.
b) Designation Notice: Once the employer determines that the requested leave qualifies under the FMLA, they must provide the employee with a written notice specifying the leave as FMLA-protected and detailing the expectations and requirements during the leave period.
c) Maintenance of Benefits: Employers are obligated to maintain the employee’s group health insurance benefits during the FMLA leave on the same terms as if the employee were actively working.
Job Restoration Rights
One of the fundamental protections of the FMLA is the right to job restoration. When an employee returns from FMLA leave, the employer must restore them to their previous position or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Employer obligations regarding job restoration include:
a) Restoration to the Same Position: Employers must restore employees to the same position they held before taking FMLA leave, or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms.
b) No Retaliation or Discrimination: Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for taking FMLA leave or interfering with their exercise of FMLA rights. Discrimination based on an employee’s use of FMLA leave is also strictly prohibited.
c) No Loss of Accrued Benefits: During FMLA leave, employees must continue to accrue seniority and any benefits that would have been accrued if they had not taken leave.
FMLA Recordkeeping Requirements
Employers have recordkeeping obligations under the FMLA to ensure compliance and facilitate the administration of leave requests. Key recordkeeping requirements include:
a) Maintenance of Employee Information: Employers must maintain accurate records of employee’s names, addresses, FMLA leave dates, hours of leave taken, and copies of FMLA notices and certifications.
b) Documenting FMLA Leave: Employers must document all FMLA leave taken, including the dates and duration of leave, as well as any intermittent or reduced schedule leave.
c) Retention of Records: Employers must retain FMLA-related records for at least three years.
Ensuring Compliance with State FMLA Laws
In addition to the federal FMLA, some states have enacted their own FMLA laws that provide additional leave entitlements or different provisions. Employers must be aware of and comply with both federal and state FMLA laws, ensuring they meet the obligations of the more beneficial law where applicable.
Consultation with Employment Law Attorneys
To ensure compliance with FMLA obligations, employers are encouraged to consult with employment law attorneys. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on FMLA requirements, help navigate complex situations, and advise on employer obligations specific to their jurisdiction and circumstances.
Complying with FMLA obligations is essential for employers to protect employee rights and maintain a fair and equitable workplace. By understanding their obligations regarding compliance with leave requests and job restoration, employers can ensure they are meeting their responsibilities under the FMLA. It is advisable for employers to seek guidance from employment law attorneys to ensure full compliance with the FMLA and related state laws. By doing so, employers can create an environment that respects employee rights and fosters positive employee-employer relationships.