Family Medical Leave Act

It Says So Right Here!

Another update from the Jungle….

Jane started her business after being downsized by her corporate employer.  She knew she wanted her business to be different from the bureaucracy of her Big Biz employer and vowed to avoid the burden of written policies.  

3But as she adds employees it becomes clear that a lack of written policies is bad for the bottom line. No written policies allow Evan to claim that he doesn’t know he is supposed to start work at 8:30 am. He thinks showing up by 10 am is okay as long as he gets his work done.  

4Jane decides she needs something in writing. She digs out an old copy of Big Biz’s employee handbook. She customizes it by changing the employer’s name, correcting a few typos, and changing the font.  Then she gives a copy to each employee and receives a signed acknowledgement from each employee.

None of the employees actually read the employee handbook, of course, until they need to. Evan reads the section on progressive discipline after Jane gives him a final written warning about his attendance.

1Meanwhile, Audrey discovers she’s pregnant. She hauls out her copy of the handbook, which is propping up a corner of her desk, and unfolds it to read the section on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She tells Jane she wants to take FMLA leave to have her baby and asks for the leave request form.  

Jane doesn’t have any FMLA forms. Her internet search eventually leads her to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) website where she learns the horrible truth about the FMLA. It applies to companies with more than 50 employees. Her Little Biz shop has 20 employees.  The news is so disturbing that she drinks half a bottle of wine while she thinks about her options.

What should Jane do next?

  1. She can collect every copy of the handbook and burn them in the parking lot knowing that most of her employees never read it.
  2. She can tell Audrey that the FMLA section of the handbook is a mistake because that law doesn’t apply to Jane’s business.
  3. She can grant FMLA leave to Audrey in accordance with the handbook policy. Then she can immediately revise the handbook to delete information about employment laws that don’t apply to her company.

The above scenario is a common problem for small business owners who lack familiarity with employment laws. The lack of familiarity can fix one problem while creating many more problems.

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Be Kind, Not Nice.

Another update from the HR jungle….


“Be kind, not nice” is a favorite saying of one of my friends. Consider what that means for employers and their employees.

Leslie’s company has less than 50 employees, so the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not apply to her company. This fact became important yesterday when Beth revealed that she has breast cancer and needs extended leave while she undergoes treatment. Beth also says that she wants to return to work full-time after completing her initial treatment.

Leslie counts Beth as a personal friend as well as an employee and wants to help. Beth was one of the first employees she hired and has always been a stellar performer. But Leslie knows that if Beth is granted extended leave, other employees will demand the same treatment later. She also worries that her staff is too small to cover for an employee who is absent for an extended period of time.

Leslie considers her situation and how she can be kind, but not nice to Beth. What options are available to Leslie?

  1. She can be kind to Beth by offering support as a friend and accommodating Beth’s treatment schedule as much as reasonably possible without disrupting the company’s work flow.
  2. She can protect her company by documenting the business reasons for making an exception to the leave policy for Beth. For example, Beth’s work performance and length of service could justify making an exception to the leave policy.

Distinguishing kind from nice may not be easy particularly when creating HR policies. Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you separate kind from nice in your employee practices with HR policies that are appropriate for your company.

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FMLA and the under 50’s

Another update from the Jungle…

Mary tells her supervisor that she needs maternity leave in a couple of months. Her supervisor tells DJ, the part-time human resources (HR) manager that Mary needs the FMLA paperwork. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows an eligible employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for maternity leave.

DJ looks through the HR forms file but can’t find any FMLA leave forms. She begins researching FMLA to find the leave forms and realizes that it only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Their company has only 30 employees.

What are some of the HR issues for DJ?
1. DJ needs to ensure that the company’s HR policies accurately reflect the laws which apply to the company based on the number of employees.
2. Mary needs to know that FMLA leave is not an option but that there may be other types of leave, such as sick or vacation leave to cover her maternity leave.

Has your company faced this issue or similar issues? Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor works with your company’s existing HR staff to identify which employment laws apply to employers of your company’s size (i.e., number of employees).

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