The Department of Labor recently released new proposed regulations concerning the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Since the proposed regulations are 477 pages, it is nice that Ohio employment lawyer Jon Hyman has provided a excellent overview.

Jon simply has one of most informative employment law blogs around.  Here are his highlights of the new regulations:

Except in emergency situations, employees will be required to follow the employer’s policy for notification of FMLA leave, eliminating employees’ ability under the old regulations to take up to 2 days after an absence begins to notify their employer that they intend to take FMLA leave. This change will greatly improve employers’ ability to plan and schedule around employees’ medical leaves.

  • Employers will be able to directly contact employees’ doctors when employers have questions about FMLA medical certification forms that the doctors have filled out. Employers will no longer have to go through the employee as an intermediary, or retain their own doctor to contact the employee’s doctor. While this change may have some effect on employee privacy, it will greatly improve the flow of information and streamline the ability of employers to make proper decisions based on full and complete medical information. This rule will also eliminate the expense and burden of companies having to retain their own doctors simply to ensure that a form is properly filled out.
  • To employers’ dismay, the regulations do not change the time increments in which employees can take intermittent leave, but do require that an employee using intermittent leave use the employer’s regular call in procedure except in emergencies. Thus, employees will still be able to take intermittent leave in very short increments, continuing for employers the administrative nightmare of intermittent leave, albeit with some additional notice.
  • Employers will be entitled to require employees to obtain certification of FMLA-eligible medical conditions twice a year instead of annually.
  • Currently, the clock under which employees accrue their 12 months of service for eligibility has no time limit, even after multiple breaks of service. Thus, if I work for 6 months for a company, and return 10 years later, I am eligible for FMLA leave after another 6 months. The new regulations place a 5-year cap on years of service for calculating eligibility, except for military or childrearing leaves, or where rehiring is covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Please note that I often find many small employers mistakenly believe they are subject to the FMLA regulations.  Generally, the FMLA covers employers with 50 or more employees, and employees must have worked for the employer for 12 months and for 1,250 hours of service during the previous year to be eligible for FMLA leave.  So be sure not to create a situation where you are responsible for FMLA leave if you are not required to do so.

As always, seek the advice of an employment lawyer in your particular situation.

flickr photo by mahalie