Quick. Answer this: if one of your employees tells his supervisor that he needs surgery and will miss 2-3 weeks of work, do your managers know what to do? Do they call the employee’s surgeon? (NO!) Do they know who to speak with in HR and can they identify the above scenario as a potentially FMLA-qualifying event? Does your HR team know the steps to take when they become aware that an employee may need FMLA leave (including making an initial decision regarding potential eligibility and issuing a Notice of Rights and Responsibilities to the employee)? If not, consider training your managers, supervisors, and entire HR team on your company’s leave of absence management process.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are on the hunt for violators of the complex federal law known as the Family and Medical Leave Act—even the smallest of errors can result in significant liability. And what’s one of your best defenses that even the courts recognize? Training!
Under the FMLA, an employee is entitled to liquidated (i.e. double) damages if an employer has violated the Act. What does this mean in plain English? Well, if an employer is found to have violated the FMLA and an employee has suffered $50,000 in damages, the damages are automatically doubled to $100,000 unless the employer’s violation of the law was in good faith. How does an employer demonstrate good faith? One federal court in Indiana recently wrote that “[e]vidence of whether the [employer] provided proper training, adhered to policies, and engaged human resource and FMLA personnel will assist the trier of fact in assessing” whether the employer’s actions were in good faith.
Training your managers and supervisors on FMLA issues just makes sense. With proper training, you can avoid an FMLA claim altogether—and if a manager or supervisor does err in implementing the FMLA, evidence that your company educated managers and supervisors on the law will prevent you from incurring double damages.
For more information on FMLA training and other training programs you can provide your workforce, check out the McNees Training Academy!