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Family and Medical Leave Act investigations becoming stricter

Sometimes a family member becomes unexpectedly ill and a person has to leave work to care for the individual. The situation typically is already stressful enough without having to worry about possibly losing one’s job as a result of the extended leave of absence. This is why the Family and Medical Leave Act is so critical for workers in Wisconsin and throughout the country: It protects them from losing their positions if they have to be gone from the office for several weeks. Going forward, employers are going to be held increasingly responsible for abiding by FMLA laws.

Within the last year, the department has increased its FMLA investigations at job sites. More of these on-site investigations are expected to continue to take place by federal authorities, according to the new FMLA Branch Chief, Helen Applewhaite. In addition, companies can be expected to furnish more detailed information concerning their business’ administration processes as part of these investigations; in fact, they can expect to receive a request for information spanning at least two years.

This is big news since on-site investigation visits were unheard of several years ago. As a result, businesses today would benefit from making sure that their recordkeeping is solid. Managers may also need to be prepared to explain to an investigator how a worker’s leave request is handled, so supervisor training at companies may be even more critical in the coming months.

The government’s increased focus on catching violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act may give employees in West Virginia more confidence about not losing their jobs if they have to take a leave. However, some companies in Wisconsin still may try to demote or terminate employees who are trying to exercise their FMLA-related rights. An employee who is experiencing opposition during the FMLA process can take legal action in an attempt to recover any benefits or pay lost as a result of the alleged FMLA violation.

Source: hrmorning.com, "New FMLA enforcement chief: 2014 will be pivotal", Tim Gould, May 16, 2014

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