Blog Archive

HR Tip of the Month: Autism Awareness MonthMarch 2016

April is Autism awareness month – but what does that have to do with managing your workforce? If you are asking that question, it is time for a refresher on employees’ intermittent leave rights under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) (and, for New Jersey employers, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“FLA”)).  Under the FMLA, employees may take leave in separate blocks of time due to a single qualifying reason, and the leave may be taken in blocks as little as one hour of time.  The basis for this leave may include the need to provide psychological comfort to a covered family member with a serious health condition.  For example, if an employee’s child suffers from autism, that employee may be eligible to take intermittent leave to care for his child with little or no advance notice.

Employers that do not understand their employees’ rights in intermittent leave in these types of situations may unintentionally interfere with an employee’s right to job protected intermittent leave.  Proper training of the employees tasked with receiving employee leave requests or late call-ins, must be trained to identify when an employee’s particular situation may justify designating intermittent leave under the FMLA.  Failure to do so will very likely result in violation of the FMLA and cause an otherwise preventable claim.

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Federal Court of Appeals Reinforces the Critical Importance of Employer Compliance with All FMLA RegulationsSeptember 2015

The Family and Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”) generally applies to employers with 50 or more employees and guarantees eligible employees 12 weeks of job-protected leave under certain conditions. In Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, a Federal Court of Appeals determined that an employer’s failure to comply with the applicable FMLA regulations can provide the basis for a claim that the employer unlawfully interfered with the employee’s rights under the FMLA.  In Hansler, the employer failed to comply with the FMLA regulation which obligated it to:  (1) notify the employee that the medical certification submitted by employee’s doctor was insufficient and/or incomplete; (2) state in writing what additional information was necessary to make the certification sufficient or complete; and (3) allow the employee 7 calendar days to cure the deficiency.  The aforementioned regulation is simply one of the many regulations promulgated under the FMLA.  This decision serves as yet another reminder of the difficult burden placed on employers and the significant risk of litigation that employers face when they are not fully familiar with and complying with all applicable FMLA regulations.

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US DOL Issues Revised FMLA Leave Designation NoticesJune 2015

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently amended several FMLA leave related forms that employers rely upon in complying with their FMLA obligations. The revisions add language complying with the Federal Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA).  The forms that were revised are: the Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition (Form WH-380-E); Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition (Form WH-380-F); Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a  Current Servicemember for Military Family Leave (Form WH-385); and Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave (Form WH-385-V).

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HR Tip of the Month: Are You Sure Your Company is Complying With Family Leave Laws?June 2015

Although the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been around for over twenty years, many employers still do not get it right when it comes to their obligations to notify their employees generally of their rights, respond correctly to employee requests for leave, correctly calculate and designate leave to which an employee is entitled, or to reinstate an employee when legally required to do so. And in New Jersey, like several other states, employers are doubly tripped up on the interplay of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA), which in some situations runs concurrent with the federal FMLA yet does not in other situations.  Compounding the compliance conundrum in states like New Jersey is the further interaction of the Temporary Disability Benefits Law and the Paid Family Leave Law.

Compliance with these laws - and more importantly working with counsel to ensure your human resources professionals do not get tripped up by the constantly shifting sands in this area - is imperative to avoid claims by employees of failure to provide leave, interference with leave rights, and retaliation for taking leave.  Considering that such claims are usually accompanied by a companion discrimination claim, employers must prioritize compliance with the web of federal and state leave laws.

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Definition of “Spouse” Under the FMLA Now Includes Same-Sex Spouses No Matter Where They LiveMarch 2015

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) new rule broadening the definition of “spouse” under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is effective March 27, 2015.  The new rule amends the definition of “spouse” under the FMLA such that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live.  New Jersey had previously recognized same-sex marriage and civil union partners under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”).  Employers can now be confident that both FMLA and NJFLA time periods may run concurrently with respect to same-sex spouses, i.e. an employee caring for a same-sex spouse may only take 12 total weeks of leave, provided the leave is for an event covered by both laws.

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