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6 ways managers violate the Family and Medical Leave Act

At a recent conference of the Society for Human Resource Management, two experts spoke about the most common ways managers violate the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These break down into three major categories: 1) failure to take the appropriate actions when an employee needs to take leave; 2) giving the impression that taking leave would be problematic; and 3) retaliation against employees who take leave.

The FMLA guarantees eligible workers up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave every 12 months in order to bond with a new child, to care for their own or a family member's serious health condition, or to handle certain qualifying exigencies arising from a family member's active duty military service. Up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave per year are available to care for an injured or ill military service member in the family.

The employee's job must be held open when the leave is taken. Retaliation is prohibited against employees for taking or attempting to take FMLA leave.

The 6 types of management FMLA violations

According to those experts, managers are sometimes "space cases" when it comes to the FMLA. They fail to realize that FMLA leave is being requested, often because the employee doesn't use the specific phrase. Often, the problem is that the manager needs training on what constitutes a serious health condition vs. ordinary sickness.

Similarly, managers may be "lazybones" who fail to follow up with human resources when an FMLA leave is requested.

"Oversharers" let their worries about the employee's leave spill over onto the employee -- giving the impression that the FMLA leave request is not welcome. These worries may be legitimate or even well meant, but they can interfere with the employee's legal right to take this leave.

The experts also identified three common types of management retaliation for taking leave:

"Badgering": Although employers can't require the employee to work during FMLA leave, some managers repeatedly contact them about work-related issues.

Some managers are "jerks" who seem to go out of their way to make the employee look bad for taking leave. Examples include citing the leave as the reason for a negative job action and ridiculing the employee's health information before others. This constitutes retaliation and is illegal under both the FMLA and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Even more serious are the "troublemakers," who try to bully employees or actively seek to discharge them for exercising their FMLA rights. Terminating an employee for taking FMLA leave is perhaps the most serious form of retaliation, and any termination occurring during or shortly after a leave should be considered suspicious.

Have you encountered any of these violations when you took FMLA leave?

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