Intermittent FMLA leave is up 150%

Current FMLA regulations say that, no matter what the reason, an employee who files a claim for leave under FMLA within two days of returning from an unscheduled absence is shielded from discipline, discharge or demotion.

That, and a broad definition of what constitutes a “serious medical condition,” can lead to significant abuses, especially when it comes to intermittent leave.

According to a recent study by the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF), multiple intermittent FMLA leave is up 150% compared to a similar Department of Labor study in 2000.
On average, 14.5% of employees took FMLA-covered leave in 2003, but that number spikes much higher in certain industries like healthcare and transportation.

Nearly 50% of all FMLA leave takers don’t give notice prior to the very day they take leave, says the study. And 30% provide notice only after the leave has started. Only 35% gave advance notice of a week or more.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of FMLA abuse, such as workers who always seem to need leave on Mondays, Fridays or the day before or after a holiday – playing havoc with work schedules.

Getting tough on FMLA abuse

It’s clear from this survey that you can get a high payoff from spelling out notice requirements, and getting tough about enforcing them. You have the right to insist on reasonable notice before granting FMLA leave, except in emergencies. Further, an employee must make a “good faith effort” to get treatment during off hours.

Another way to put the kibosh on potential FMLA abuse is to insist on detailed medical certification, not just “a note from the doctor.” That certification should spell out the number of treatments, dates and recovery period.

Note: You can require recertification (at the employee’s expense) every 30 days – or more often if you have reason to suspect abuse.

Source: Employment Policy Foundation.

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