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Use updated FMLA forms–at least for the rest of March

With almost no advance notice, the federal government has revised recently expired FMLA forms to reflect a new effective date: March 31, 2015. The core suite of FMLA forms—doctors’ certifications of serious health conditions, notices of rights and responsibilities and designation notices—was set to expire Feb. 28.

FMLA rights extended to all same-sex spouses

The rule change grants FMLA leave rights to same-sex spouses even in states that do not sanction or recognize gay marriage.

Beware handing out discipline so soon after FMLA request


When it comes to the FMLA, courts always pull out their stopwatches and calendars to see how closely the employee’s protected activity (requesting or taking FMLA leave) coincides with the adverse action (discipline or firing). As this case shows, the smaller the time, the bigger your risk of liability.

Choose one: Total disability or accommodation


Here’s something to consider if a discharged disabled employee who simply could not do her job sues, alleging disability discrimination. Check to see if she has applied for disability benefits and get a copy of the application. If she didn’t qualify her disability by claiming she could perhaps do some work if reasonably accommodated, she may have killed her chances to argue she was qualified for her old position, too.

Invoke FMLA when employee can’t do job


Sometimes a pregnant employee develops problems that amount to a temporary disability. Then she may need accommodations. But if those accommodations don’t allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job, you can place the employee on FMLA leave. If she can’t return to work when her FMLA entitlement is up, you may terminate the employee without violating the FMLA.

OK to base discipline on pre-FMLA absences


Until an employee has logged 12 months of service with her employer, she’s not eligible for FMLA leave. After she becomes eligible, you can’t use FMLA-related absences against her. But what about absences occurring before she became eligible? Can you count those? The answer is yes.

The ideal: Those who handle discipline shouldn’t have access to FMLA info

If you have a large enough HR office, it makes good sense to keep the FMLA request-and-approval process separate from the disciplinary process. Doing so ensures that someone with expertise in FMLA administration handles the entire process.

Changing employees’ job duties or hours during FMLA leave? Have good reasons

Employees who take FMLA leave are generally entitled to come back to their old jobs when they return. If you make any changes to their jobs, be sure you can document solid business reasons that are unrelated to FMLA leave.

Can we collect insurance premiums from employee who was out on FMLA leave?

Q. One of our employees recently returned from FMLA leave. Before he left, the method in which he would pay his share of health insurance premiums was never decided. It’s been two months now and the employee hasn’t mentioned it or attempted to pay us back. What can we do to collect the premium?

Employee won’t give up FMLA info? That may be willful misconduct

Employees fired for willful misconduct aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation. But what is willful misconduct? The term is broad and can include all kinds of behavior, such as refusing to cooperate with an employer’s rea­­sonable request for information.