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Employers warned to avoid FMLA violations

The old song says that a sigh is just a sigh. But when a manager sighs or swears when an employee requests leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, it can be the start of real problems for the employer. That's what attendees at the recent Society for Human Resource Management's annual conference were told.

FMLA violations often begin in interactions between managers and employees. Too often, supervisors have little or no training in how to deal appropriately with requests for leave. Conference attendees were told that managers should be coached in how to respond properly to requests, so that they reply with helpful, positive statements such as "Let me know how I can help you" rather than sighing or swearing in frustration or anger.

Employers were also told that managers should be trained to keep their communications with HR and other supervisors similarly appropriate. There should be no complaining about the effect a FMLA leave might have on them or their department.

"That's what their clergy and their therapists are for," an HR expert said of supervisors' tales of woe. "Let's not put it into the record."

The expert offered other tidbits of advice to employers who want to try to prevent FMLA violations and the lawsuits that can follow, including:

  • Teach managers that there are important differences between sick days and FMLA leave
  • Make sure that supervisors understand intermittent leave ("get rid of this notion that the FMLA is only for long-term [leave]"
  • Show managers where to direct potential leave requests
  • Insist that managers enforce policies consistently
  • Require supervisors to "own" FMLA requests, meaning that they are to help the employee until HR or another supervisor takes over the request

The consequences for FMLA violations can be financially painful for business owners. An employment law attorney who knows the law and is experienced in litigation involving FMLA and Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act violations can help workers protect their rights and get them the benefits and compensation they deserve.

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