- Of Counsel
How to Avoid Litigation Under the FMLA Individualized Notice Requirements
To protect your business from employment litigation, a business owner should strictly adhere to the rules under The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA” / “Act”). By simply neglecting one aspect of compliance, the court can find your business in violation of the Act. The FMLA is a federal law overseen by the Department of Labor. The rules apply to employers with fifty or more employees. The Act allows for up to twelve weeks of protected leave during a twelve month period, but only when certain requirements are met. Below are points that can assist business owners in managing the FLMA notice requirements:
1. Posting General Notice & Handbook
An employer covered by the FMLA is required to publically post a general notice explaining the Act. The general notice may be posted electronically or as a poster. The general notice must also be included in the employee handbook or in any other written form and distributed to employees.
2. Individualized Eligibility Notice
When an employee requests leave under the Act, or when the employer learns that an employee’s leave may be for a qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee of his or her eligibility or non-eligibility. The intention of this notice is to provide a “general notice” regarding eligibility under the Act, and unless there are extenuating circumstances, the notice must be submitted within five business days.
3. Individualized Designation Notice
When the employer has adequate information to determine whether the leave is being taken for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must again notify the employee. This “individualized designation notice” should include whether the leave will be designated and counted as FMLA leave. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, this notice must be provided to the employee within five business days. Any employee requirements – such as taking paid leave or fitness-for-duty certification upon return – must be stated in the individualized notice.
4. Consequences: Using Employee Handbook as Method of Notice; Failing to Provide Notice
Failure of the employer to comply with the notice requirements may result in liability for compensation, benefits lost due to the violation, or other damages. In a recent case, an employee notified her human resources department prior to taking pregnancy leave. The employer, however, failed to formally classify the employee’s leave as “FMLA leave.” Also, the employer did not provide the individualized notice. When the employee returned to work after her leave, she was terminated. The employee asserted that the employer’s failure to formally classify the leave interfered with her rights and prevented her from making informed decisions. In the same case, the employer never gave the employee an eligibility notice, a rights and responsibilities notice, nor a designation notice notifying her of when leave expired, or when she would be required to return to work. The court held that the information contained in the employee handbook did not satisfy the individualized notice requirements, that the employee was prejudiced by the lack of notice, and that she had been unlawfully terminated.
The Department of Labor has published numerous posters, prototypes, notices, etc. that may be used by employers. http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/
Sharon A. Dragan has been named Director and Shareholder with Mason, Griffin & Pierson. Sharon received a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law where she served as Bureau Editor for the Seton Hall Legislative Bureau and is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She practices in the areas of local government law, zoning and land use law, real estate law, and estate law. Sharon is Attorney for the Township of Readington, Attorney for Alexandria Township, Attorney for Delaware Township and Attorney for Special Open Space Counsel of West Amwell Township. In her continued service to the legal profession, Sharon served on the District XIII Ethics Committee for several years, the committee that acts as the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in discharging the Court's constitutional responsibility to supervise and discipline New Jersey attorneys. Sharon is a Trustee of the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, a professional organization with the purpose of promoting education and professionalism among local government attorneys. She is a member of the Hunterdon County, New Jersey State and Pennsylvania State Bar Associations.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson continues its support of youth basketball programs in the community. For more information on the Dillon Youth Basketball League go to the Princeton Recreation Department at www.leaguelineup.com
For information on the Montgomery Basketball Association go to www.montgomerybasketball.com
In May of this year, New Jersey joined the growing number of states to enact paid sick leave laws. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act is currently in effect and below you will find certain information that is important for all New Jersey employers to understand.
Who Does it Affect?
The Act applies to New Jersey employers of all sizes, including businesses that are based elsewhere but have employees located in New Jersey. While several New Jersey municipalities already had paid sick leave ordinances, this new state law preempts them, meaning they no longer apply and employers throughout the state are now subject to one consistent set of requirements.
The Act does not apply to a few narrow categories of employees: (1) construction industry employees working under collective bargaining agreements; (2) per diem health care employees; or (3) public employees who are already provided with sick leave with full pay pursuant to any other state law, rule, or regulation.
Mason, Griffin & Pierson is pleased to sponsor Montgomery Township Education Foundation. The Foundation's fundraiser takes place on the evening of February 23 at Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman, New Jersey. The Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization set up to support strategic programs for the benefit of the Montgomery Township public school children.
For more information go to one.bidpal.net/mtefcomedynight