Employees may need to take time off from work for various reasons, including for their own medical situations or family emergencies. Federal and state leave laws require employers to provide employees with leave in certain situations. In general, when employees request time off from work, employers should consider their obligations under:
- The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if applicable;
- The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA);
- The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if applicable; and
- Any applicable state and local laws regarding employee leave, including laws regarding paid sick leave.
This Compliance Overview provides a high-level summary of the compliance rules that an employer should consider when evaluating an employee’s leave request. To avoid noncompliance, an employer should familiarize itself with the leave laws it is covered under and establish policies and procedures for handling employee leave requests.
In general, when employees request time off from work, employers should consider their obligations under federal, state and local leave laws. At the federal level, the three primary laws that employers may need to comply with when handling leave requests and creating leave policies are the FMLA, ADA and USERRA.
Employers should also be aware of the state and local laws that impact employee leaves. Most states have their own family and medical leave laws, and many states have other laws that allow employees to take leave in certain situations, such as leave for parents to attend school events.
Coordinating employee leaves under the various leave laws can be a challenge for employers. State leave laws often provide greater protections to employees than federal leave laws. Also, state and local laws tend to change more frequently than federal laws, which means that employers need to monitor legal developments to stay up-to-date.
Employers should also be aware of the risk of legal claims for interference, retaliation and discrimination when managing employee leaves. To reduce their legal risk for these types of claims, employers should administer their leave policies in a consistent and nondiscriminatory manner throughout the organization.
Administering employee leaves can be a complex and confusing process. Employers should consider the following compliance tips when managing employee leaves:
- Determine which employee leave laws and policies may apply to an employee’s leave request. Employers may need to review an employee’s situation carefully to determine their leave obligations. Employees are not always clear about why they need to take leave and may not cooperate with the employer’s leave process. However, despite these obstacles, the employee may still have leave rights under the law.
- Make sure that any managers or supervisors who are involved in the employee leave process receive training on the employer’s leave policies. This will help ensure that employee leaves are administered in a manner that is consistent with applicable laws.
- Administer the employer’s leave policies in a consistent and nondiscriminatory manner across the organization. Maintaining this type of consistency can help protect an employer from claims of illegal leave administration, including claims of retaliation or discrimination.
- If an employee’s leave is covered under more than one leave law or policy, determine if the leave periods can run concurrently in order to reduce the amount of time off. For example, when an employee takes a workers’ compensation leave due to a workplace injury, an employer should consider counting this leave against the employee’s FMLA entitlement.
- Remember the employer’s obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Although the ADA is not an employee leave law per se, it does require covered employers to provide employees with leave as a reasonable accommodation, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship for the employer.
- Continue group health plan benefits during the leave, if required to do so by the employee leave law or employer policy.
AUI has a number of resources to help clients navigate employee leave as well as access to products to help employers manage FMLA and other types of employee leave. To learn more, please contact us.