The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) clearly states that when an employer knows that a worker taking leave qualifies for FMLA, it must designate the worker's absence as FMLA leave.
Despite this requirement, some employers let employees choose whether to designate their leave as FMLA leave. Two recent court cases have highlighted why this approach could cause problems for your company.
Both cases - Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms and Amstutz v. Liberty Center Board of Education - involved workers who were terminated from their jobs. These employees later brought FMLA lawsuits against their former employers, claiming FMLA interference and retaliation, respectively.
In these cases, both employees requested not to use FMLA leave for medical-related absences and instead elected to take another type of paid time off-and both employers allowed them to do so.
In both cases, the courts ruled in favor of the employers because the workers had previously used FMLA leave on several occasions and understood their companies' FMLA processes. So when they declined to use FMLA leave, they knew what they were doing. Not having the leave designated as FMLA leave was their own choice, not a result of their employers' interference or retaliation.
While these employers were successful in defending against the FMLA claims, HR professionals should be wary of similar situations. Letting employees decide whether or not to apply FMLA could be dangerous for your company.
This approach could be seen by an employee, and a court, as the employer attempting to prevent employees from exercising their FMLA rights. Trying to make leave-designation decisions based on which employees understand FMLA procedures could expose your company to administrative and legal issues.
The easiest way to avoid an FMLA lawsuit is to always apply FMLA leave when an employee qualifies for it. Even if a worker chooses to use another type of leave, FMLA leave should run concurrently.
Applying FMLA right away avoids giving employees the option to decline FMLA leave, and can help protect you against future lawsuits while safeguarding your bottom line.
The Department of Labor has issued proposed revisions to the template and related materials for the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC), and has requested comments on these proposed revisions. The proposed template, as well as the current template and other related materials is available here.
QUESTION: This year, our company has scheduled a voluntary compliance self-audit of the company's ERISA welfare plan. What issues should we consider in planning and carrying out our compliance audit?
ANSWER: Every plan sponsor should periodically perform a voluntary compliance audit of its employee benefit plans for compliance with ERISA and other legal requirements. Generally, the primary goal of a voluntary compliance audit is to identify and promptly correct compliance failures before they are discovered during a governmental audit.. A compliance audit can also help the plan sponsor avoid unnecessary participant claims and potential lawsuits. There is no "standard" review format or procedure for a voluntary compliance audit, but here are some key issues to consider:
On Groundhog Day, House Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the 63rd time.
The 241-186 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override President Obama's veto of the Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 (H.R. 3762). If passed, this bill would have repealed major parts of the ACA and cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The vote was largely seen as a political message intended to help rally Republicans in the upcoming 2016 election.
Burnham Benefits does not engage in the practice of law and this publication should not be construed as the providing of legal advice or a legal opinion of any kind. The consulting advice we provide is intended solely to assist in assessing its compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and other applicable federal and state law requirements, and is based on Burnham Benefit’s interpretation of federal guidance in effect as of the date of this publication. To the best of our knowledge, the information provided herein, and assumptions relied on, are reasonable and accurate as of the date of this publication. Furthermore, to ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any tax advice contained in this publication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of (i) avoiding penalties imposed under the United States Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any tax-related matter.