Leave case managers and employers are constantly being bombarded with new information. This includes new leave laws, updates to existing leave laws and much more! Along with these changes and updates made in 2019, we also saw opinion letters produced by the US Department of Labor (DOL).
The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL often generates model forms and opinion letters for case managers and employers on topics such as the FMLA. To help you stay compliant, we've written a brief summary of the three DOL opinion letters from 2019:
Letter 1: The obligation to designate FMLA-qualifying leave and prohibition on expanding FMLA leave
Two issues were presented in the first DOL opinion letter. One was whether an employer can allow their employees to use their available sick leave (or any other leave) instead of using FMLA leave when the leave is qualified as FMLA (i.e. the employee just gave birth and will be caring for the newborn). The other issue was whether an employer can authorize an employee to extend their FMLA leave beyond their 12-week entitlement. The simple answer to both of these is no.
Letter 2: Attending a Committee on Special Education meeting to discuss a child’s Individualized Education Program qualifies as FMLA leave
The second DOL opinion letter addressed whether an employee can take FMLA leave to attend a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting to go over the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of their son/daughter. These meetings involve reviewing a child’s progress and discussing their educational and medical needs, and are for children who suffer from a serious health condition. Since this involves caring for a child that has a serious health condition, this would qualify as FMLA leave.
Letter 3: Can an employer delay designating paid leave as FMLA leave due to a collective bargaining agreement?
The third DOL opinion letter of 2019 clarified whether an employer may delay designating paid leave as FMLA leave, when the delay satisfies the regulations of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the employee prefers that the designation is postponed. The short answer to this is no, neither an employee nor an employer can refuse FMLA leave when the reason for the leave qualifies as FMLA (as communicated by the employee).
Staying on top of leave law changes throughout the year can be challenging. Luckily, with resources like the DOL's opinion letters, you can have a better grasp on FMLA and leave management, all while remaining compliant.
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming laws in 2020 - we have a feeling there will be a few! Our leave law reference guide, Leave Genius, will also keep you in the know with all of the latest leave laws and relevant information available, anytime, anywhere!
Should you have any questions regarding these updates and new laws, please consult your organization’s legal counsel.