CategoryFMLA

You’ve Been Notified

Not long ago, I got a call from an upset manager …

“Jack called and said he’s not going to be at work for at least 2 weeks because his girlfriend had a baby. He didn’t give me any notice! Can I write him up for that?”

Um. How long has Jack worked for us?

“Almost 3 years.”

Then he’s entitled to take the time off for the birth of his child under the FMLA.

“FMLA? He’s didn’t say he was notifying me about FMLA. He just said his girlfriend had a C-section.”

That’s enough. You’ve been notified … And so has your company.

 

We often want employees to formally notify us of exactly what is wrong or exactly what they want so that we know exactly what to do … Sorry! Employees don’t have to sound the trumpets and say “I am notifying you of a serious health condition and wish to exercise my rights under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1992.” That’s not how it works.

Most times, notification sounds something like this …

  • “My wife is in labor! I gotta go!”
  • “My child is sick and I’m going to be out the rest of the week”
  • “My dad is getting up there in age. I’ll need to take a few hours on Thursday to go with him to the doctor”

From that point, it is the responsibility of the manager to know these circumstances are likely going to be covered — and take action accordingly based on the federal and state laws as well as your company’s policy/procedure/practice on handling leave under the FMLA.

These same thresholds should follow for issues of harassment and discrimination and bullying in the workplace. We want and expect employees to make a grand announcement — but instead we get …

  • “He looks at me funny”
  • “If she calls me ‘pops’ or ‘old timer’ one more time, I’m going to scream!”
  • “I really try not to talk to him. He’s so rude and mean”

Once again, you’ve been notified. From that point, it is the responsibility of the manager to ask more questions and monitor the situation — then take corrective action on anything which is improper.

Regardless of whether it is fair or unfair, managers are accountable under the law for this as the threshold for notification. HR has a duty to educate and train our managers accordingly so they are aware and know how to react and act in these situations. Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for liability and failure.

Reagan, Reinstatement and the COC

Today’s post is a “honey” of a blog.  This means to the untrained person that in reference to Buzz’s August post of Follow Up and Follow-Through. I could not agree more with everything she says in this post. Not only do I agree with this – I have lived nearly the exact same set of circumstances.

Accordingly, this post is directed to the younger folks in HR.  The ones, who have not yet turned into the Cynical, Old Curmudgeon (COC) that I have become.  As an HR pro, when it comes to managers and supervisors completing the appropriate, yet always not existent documentation do not believe anyone. Say “GIVE ME A COPY!”

That way I know it is done. It reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s famous  three word sentence to Mikhail Gorbachev, “Trust but Verify.”

So as the COC that I have become, I can almost assure you that most, if not all supervisors WILL NOT perform even the minimal amount of documentation — unless your organization is structured such that it has processes in place to keep them from getting paid without doing the proper documentation.

I have also been through the distasteful process of employee reinstatement.  Or for the sports-minded supervisor, said another way Employee 1 – Supervisor 0.  You lost! But yet they (the run amock supervisors) still don’t seem to figure it out and it really is such a simple thing. You must do the proper documentation.

“I am too busy.” That’s my favorite. The supervisor is the only person in the whole organization  who is busy.  If you can’t get it done then you need to stay longer. That is why you are an exempt employee.

FMLA, it has been around since 1993  and if you are a supervisor and do not know about it, you are not qualified to do your job!  See ya – get out.

In Buzz’s story, I would also find some fault with the HR department. The reason is this, because HR needs to make sure everybody who is remotely related to supervision or management knows about FMLA and how it works, and the ramifications of improper FMLA administration at the supervisor level.  So there is a shame on HR too.

When supervisors come to HR they are usually looking for the answer they want, not necessarily the answer you give them.  So don’t consider it advice. You are giving them a directive, an order to handle a situation in a certain matter – at least based upon the facts as they are presented.

And remember what Regan told Gorbachev, “Trust but Verify.”

 

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Dave Ryan, SPHR is an HR veteran, who has been in HR since in, was personnel.

Dave was my 2nd follower on Twitter and the 1st person to ever @-mention or retweet or #FF my writings. And when Dave tweets, people listen — so to have his support was and still is such an honor!

Dave is a dad, husband, blogger, ice hockey official and a fan of all
things electronic.  You can find Dave at his blog site http://hrofficial.com or on
Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidryansphr on the
tweet stream as Dave the HR Czar http://twitter.com/#!/davethehrczar.

The Other Side of HR – part 3: FMLA

This month, The Buzz on HR is doing a series about the things I’ve learned on the other side of the HR equation, as an employee experiencing an event that happens to thousands of employees every day. Week 1 looked at Benefits. Week 2 looked at Employee Relations. This week, it’s the FMLA.

My first pregnancy was a rough one. I had horrible morning sickness well into the 2nd trimester, repeated urinary tract infections and kidney stones! Oh my — and TMI! I was often late for work just trying to get the nausea under control and I left early a lot for doctor’s appointments and there were some days I just couldn’t pull it together enough to go in at all. Somewhere in there, my employer notified me that my time was being counted toward my annual entitlment under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to that. In fact, I didn’t even send back those Serious Health Condition certification forms for over a month.

When I finally gave birth and went out on official maternity, I only had about 5 weeks of FMLA time left to use. I was shocked! At that point in my career, I had not administered leave of absence so I was really unfamiliar with the rules of the FMLA. Even now, I’m not sure what I was thinking or how I managed to burn through all my time during those early months. I couldn’t believe I was in danger of not having a job to come back to. My doctor wasn’t going to clear me to return to work for at least 6 weeks and the daycare wouldn’t let the baby start until he was 9 weeks old — and I was going to need time for his appointments and such even after I went back to work. None of it was going to be protected.

After 5 weeks, I got a notice that my FMLA had expired and an ultimatum from my employer. I would either be terminated or I could accept an alternate position. The alternate job was basically a demotion and it was also a significant drop in pay. I was definitely not prepared for that! So I chose to let my employer terminate me. It was a devastating turn of events at a time when I should have felt on top of the world.

7 years later, I am grateful for the lessons I learned, both as an employee and as an HR professional.

  • As an employee, I learned the FMLA is not asylum, absolution, amnesty or sanctuary! Just because the law protects you doesn’t mean that you don’t have to respond to requests or keep your employer informed about what is going on with you or be mindful of the impact of your absence on the workplace. You have responsibilities too — and the employer has their own protections under the law. Do what you can to educate yourself about how the FMLA works as soon as you know you are going to need it.
  • As an HR professional, I learned the importance of compassion and clear communication when dealing with people and the FMLA. No one talked to me at all. I saw these people every day but all communication about my medical issues was delivered by certified mail. I guess it was partly because they didn’t want to upset me further and partly because they were annoyed with me and my attendance. However, the letters were full of confusing legal-ese that someone who is sick and/or stressed from dealing with everything surrounding a health or family crisis doesn’t have time, energy or desire to interpret. HR professionals have to be sensitive to this. Unless the goal is to confuse the employee and/or have them to run out of FMLA time so you can terminate employment, a conversation to check-in and explain some things is the right thing to do.

In the end, the termination turned out to be a good thing for me. After a couple months, I found a new job — and it was better than the one I lost! It set my career on it’s current trajectory and the rest is history.

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