DOL Releases New Employer Guide to FMLA – New FMLA Poster May Soon Follow

By Elizabeth T. Gross

Compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) continues to cause employers frequent confusion and consternation. Even human resources professionals well-versed in the FMLA’s ins and outs throw their hands in the air in exasperation over how to handle a unique leave situation. For those of you who can relate, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) has issued its new Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“Guide”) to, according to the DOL, “provide essential information about the FMLA, including information about employers’ obligations under the law and the options available to employers in administering leave under the FMLA” and “increase public awareness of the FMLA.”

The 76-page Guide should be a useful tool for employers. It is organized in chronological order and tracks the regulations, from analyzing coverage and eligibility issues through an employee’s return to work. One of the early pages of the Guide sets forth “The Employer’s Road Map to the FMLA,” providing a quick-reference flowchart of the FMLA cycle and referencing required forms and notices.

Each section discusses the steps in the FMLA process and includes helpful “Did you Know?” sections that touch on issues employers may overlook or not be aware of, along with practical examples. For example, the Guide discusses the certification process and suggests what an employer may and may not do in connection with the certification paperwork it receives (e.g., authentication, clarification, etc.). The Guide also provides an in-depth analysis of military caregiver leave—often a less familiar area for employers. In addition, the Guide references the specific FMLA regulations applicable to each section and includes illustrations of the forms and notices required for each step of the FMLA process. Employers should keep an electronic version of the Guide handy, as the Guide links to the applicable FMLA regulations, notices, and forms.

Overall, for those new to handling the process and seasoned human professionals alike, the Guide may help to navigate the FMLA process. The Guide, however, does not provide any guidance beyond the letter of existing regulations. And, stay tuned—the DOL has indicated that it will be issuing a new FMLA notice poster soon.