The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed more than 20 years ago, and it endows more than 100 million American employees with the ability to take extended unpaid leave.
With more than two decades of enforcement, it's imperative that your business be in compliance with federal labor laws on family and medical leave under the FMLA. That means giving employees proper notice.
So how should your business craft its FMLA notice policy to be compliant with federal law? Here are a few pointers, along with some guidance from a recent federal appeals court ruling:
FMLA Notice Is Employer's Responsibility
The FMLA grants certain eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every 12 months to care for family members or to recover from a serious health condition. In order to let employees know that they have these rights, the FMLA requires employers to provide three types of notice:
- General notice. Employers must post a general notice explaining the FMLA and employees' rights and responsibilities, procedure for filing an FMLA claim, and employer responsibilities under the Act. These notices typically appear in the form of posters in break rooms, and they must also appear in the employee manual.
- Eligibility notice. Once a business owner catches wind of an employee's intent to take leave for family or medical purposes, the employer must provide notice within five business days of that employee's eligibility for FMLA leave. This notice includes whether medical certification will be required.
- Designation notice. This type of notice gives the employee the heads-up that his or her leave will be designated as FMLA leave within five days of the employer's decision. This notice should include any accommodations to substitute paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave and what documents an employee needs to prove he or she is fit to return to work.
Failure to provide any of these notices can result in a claim against your business for interfering with an employee's rights under the FMLA.
Use Certified Mail for Individual Notices, Court Suggests
Although notice can be accomplished in many ways, a recent federal court ruling shows it's better to be safe than sorry with FMLA notices. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges Inc. that sending a form of mail with a verifiable receipt, like certified mail, is a low-cost way to ensure a business has met the notice requirements and to avoid litigation.
If you have more detailed questions about how to provide your employees with FMLA notice, consult a knowledgable business attorney near you.
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