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Properly communicating FMLA usage to employees

What are employers’ obligations?

Posted July 23, 2021 

In a perfect world, employees would keep track of how much leave they take under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). But, where does the burden lie … with the employer or employee?

The scoop on communicating FMLA usage

If an employer knows the amount of FMLA leave an employee is going to use, the employer must notify the employee of the number of hours, days, or weeks that will be counted. This information is provided in the designation notice.

If an employer does not know how much FMLA leave will be used, employees have the right to request an update once in a 30-day period (if leave was taken during that time).

Outside of this provision, employers are not required to remind employees how much FMLA leave they have used or what they have left. But doing so is not prohibited. Strong, open communication can have positive results. Courts may even see such actions as good-faith efforts toward compliance.

Key take-aways

Although the designation notice must be in writing, communicating the amount of leave counted against an employee’s entitlement may be verbal or written. If providing a verbal update, it may be best to follow-up in writing.

Generally, it may be best practice to let an employee know when they are nearing the end of their allotted FMLA leave. This is important because the employee:

  • May not know the consequences of exhausting their leave and decide to come back sooner if possible.
  • May need to make plans before coming back.
  • May not be able to come back to work after the 12 weeks of FMLA leave exhausts, possibly triggering an employer’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding accommodations.

While it may be nice if employees keep track of their leave, it is an employer’s responsibility to do so. Communicating with an employee about their remaining leave can help manage expectations.

This article was written by Michelle Higgins of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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