Home > Employee Benefits > Attention employers: have you double checked your FMLA policies?

Attention employers: have you double checked your FMLA policies?

rings_courtRecently, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a revision to the definition of a spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The long-awaited change comes in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer which struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Employers can now use the “place of celebration” standard to determine FMLA eligibility, allowing a qualified employee in a legally recognized same-sex marriage to take a job-protected leave of absence for his or her spouse or family member regardless of where he or she resides.

The proposed rule is a welcome relief for employers who previously had to administer conflicting guidance for same-sex married couples on laws such as COBRA, cafeteria plan elections, ERISA and FMLA. With PPACA provisions consuming employers’ time these days, it is still important to remember the significance of improper FMLA administration. Employers should proactively review their processes, forms and handbooks to ensure compliance before the DOL comes knocking on the door.

The DOL has announced that it expects to increase the amount of FMLA audits and the frequency in which it comes on-site during an FMLA investigation. However, employers can mitigate risk by conducting an internal audit. What are some steps an employer can take to reduce their FMLA exposure?

  • Post the FMLA poster in a conspicuous place where it can be seen by both employees and applicants
  • Review FMLA policies and procedures
  • Utilize appropriate, up-to-date FMLA forms
  • Train managers on how to recognize when a leave is an FMLA leave
  • Track FMLA leave correctly and in a consistent method
  • Proper recordkeeping and benefits administration
  • Understanding when and how other laws interact with FMLA

Remember noncompliance leads to penalties and lawsuits if not administered correctly. FMLA judgments have reached as high as $8 million. Leave of absences occur frequently at work and employers believe they are managing FMLA correctly, though this may not be the case. It never hurts to take a moment and look at something with a fresh pair of eyes.

About the Author

Priya Setty is an Assistant Vice President  in the Employee Benefits Group at William Gallagher Associates. Her role involves educating and providing compliance guidance to clients in applicable local, state and federal regulations affecting their insurance programs and employees. She is also a member of WGA’s Health Reform Advisory Committee.

617.646.0216 | PSetty@wgains.com

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