FMLA guidelines can help employers avoid costly workplace discrimination lawsuits

We see a lot of FMLA compliance mistakes – and most involve retaliation lawsuits. Workers claim they were punished, fired, demoted or harassed for taking FMLA leave. And in some, employers pay a steep price for their line managers’ behavior.
But we also see plenty of Family and Medical Leave Act cases where employers aren’t trying to retaliate against anyone. They simply failed to launch the policies or communicate the messages necessary to ensure full FMLA compliance.

    Remember: Honest errors can cost an employer too.

Be aware and know the law
Here are three common FMLA compliance mistakes, along with suggestions to help employers avoid making them:

Notify employees of their rights

While no one expects HR to make medical diagnoses, it’s important to understand an employee does not have to ask for FMLA leave by name. If health problems or a family emergency are evident, it’s best for the employer to inform the employee they may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Take an employee’s medical condition seriously

We’ve seen cases where HR pros and other managers tell an employee, “You look fine to me” when the employee is suffering from a debilitating condition. In other cases, employees present clear signs of health problems, but employers ignore what they see until they eventually fire the employee for poor performance or attendance violations. Remember, let the medical professional make the medical calls. Don’t expose your company and yourself to a possible FMLA lawsuit

Understanding attendance issues and policy

Most employers know they may not punish people for taking time off under FMLA guidelines. But what about attendance rewards, for example? If an employee has a perfect attendance record before FMLA leave, the employer may not take away a promised attendance bonus because of the time missed during the FMLA time off.

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