Recent News

 

How Your Company’s Handbook May Be Expanding Medical Leave Eligibility

October 21, 2016 – by: Linda S.

Many companies do not realize that their own documentation may be expanding the eligibility pool. Specifically, Employee Handbooks may inadvertently limit the amount of control employers have over these cases. One court case in particular brought this inconsistency to light. Click below to read how it affected those involved.

In order to qualify for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for their current employer for at least one year, have worked 1250 hours over the past 12 months, and must work at a company that employs a minimum of 50 employees in a 75-mile radius. However, if your company does not fully disclose these criteria in your official Employee Handbook, you could be potentially bared from challenging your employees’ non- eligibility for FMLA.

In January 2015, Tilley v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission ruled in favor of an employee who appealed his termination, citing that the employee handbook miscommunicated the FMLA requirements, thus encouraging him to take leave under FMLA.

After being presented with a ‘final warning’ and a strict deadline for overdue reports, Tilley experienced ‘heart attack-like symptoms’ and was admitted to the hospital on the final day his reports would be accepted. HR sent FMLA paperwork to Tilley, including a cover letter that stated he was ‘eligible for FMLA leave’, as well as “Notice of Eligibility” which including the same information. However, roughly a week later, the Road Commission terminated Tilley’s employment on the grounds that he had not submitted his reports.

Tilley filed suit in the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court, contesting that the Road Commission inhibited his right FMLA and penalized him for taking leave with unfair termination. The district court sided in favor of the Road Commission, ruling that Tilley was not eligible for FMLA because his employer did not employ 50 employees in a 75-mile radius.

Tilley’s argument centered upon ‘equitable estoppel’, which would prevent a party from denying something that was contradicted by past statements, when the opposite action would be unfair to the party who relied on the original position. However, he failed to present evidence that proved he detrimentally depended on such a statement from the Road Commission.

On appeal, however, the district court concluded that there was a dispute as to whether the Road Commission was equitably estopped from denying Tilley as an eligible employee. This time, Tilley was able to present a clear miscommunication of his eligibility for FMLA as outlined in the Road Commission’s Personal Manual. Employees at the Road Commission were informed upon hire that the manual served as a guide to benefits and working policies. In referencing FMLA eligibility, the handbook stated that employees were entitled to such leave if they worked for the company for one year and 1250 hours over the past year. The handbook failed to acknowledge the 50/75 employee threshold.

Because of this oversight, the appeals court ruled that Tilley had reasonably concluded that he was eligible for FMLA and was unfairly reprimanded. The previous decision was reversed and the Road Commission was not able to terminate Tilley on grounds of lack of FMLA eligibility.

As the new year approaches, now is the time perfect time for companies to review their employee handbooks and ancillary materials pertaining to medical leaves to ensure that it properly details all of the eligibility requirements for FMLA and other types of medical leaves. Keep your company out of harm’s way by modifying corporate terminology to comply with Federal regulations.


FOCUS: New York State Upcoming Paid Family Leave Law

October 14, 2016 – by: June B.

With each issue of Work & Well’s newsletter, we will be instituting a new column: FOCUS. This section is designed to spotlight an individual state and the new and changing laws pertaining to FMLA, and other pertinent medical leaves. Work & Well’s home state of New York is the focus of our inaugural feature article, which details the implementation of new legislation that will allow employees to take paid family leave – a novel program for the Empire state. Expand this column to read about it!

New York is the latest state to implement paid family leave, and it may be the most generous paid family leave program in the nation. Effective January 1, 2018, the New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (PFLBL) will provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for an infant or family member with a serious health condition or assist with family obligations when a family member is called to active duty. Employers will take a yet undetermined deduction from all employees that will go into a state fund that will finance the program.

Eligibility criteria for the PFLBL is much less stringent than for FMLA. Regardless of size, all employers will be included in new program. There is also no hours-worked mandate as with FMLA; rather employees must have worked for their employer for just 26 weeks.

The PFLBL will be phased in over 4 years. When implemented in 2018, eligible employees will receive 8 weeks of paid benefit at 50% of their average weekly wage. In 2019, this will increase to 10 weeks at 55% of their current wage. In 2020, it will rise to 10 weeks at 60% of their wage, and finally cap at 12 weeks at 67% of their current wage.

The PFLBL will allow for intermittent leave; however, clarification has not been released regarding how pay will be handled. As with FMLA, employers must continue to pay for their share of health benefits while the employee is out of work. It is still unclear if employers can recover these premiums if the employee does not return to work. Additionally, federal FMLA can run concurrent with the PFLBL. An employee cannot receive PFLBL if on NYS Disability or Workers’ Compensation.

Small businesses must prepare to handle these upcoming regulations and properly manage cases with paid leave. The “stepped” benefit amount will provide companies with an adjustment period, yet small businesses will face an important challenge as they work to comply with this new paid state family leave benefit.

Preventing FMLA Misuse at Work is What We Do Well

October 10, 2016 – by: Alex D.

Managing FMLA leaves can be a difficult and time-consuming process, which is why Work & Well takes pride in our comprehensive and compliant system for administering and managing employees’ medical leaves. We thoroughly monitor and medically review documentation, deadlines, and usage of time. Our leave management process enhances compliance and dramatically reduces the amount of time HR spends managing their cases. Click ‘expand’ below to read about our process, and to learn why so many clients trust Work & Well to handle all their employees’ medical leaves.

The Family Medical Leave Act grants employees of qualifying companies 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their own serious health condition or that of a family member. While continuous leaves are oftentimes straightforward, managing and tracking intermittent leaves can be tricky and time-consuming.

According to a 2014 CareerBuilder survey, 28% of employees called in sick when they were actually feeling well. A third of these employees stated they simply ‘did not feel like’ going to work, another third claimed they needed to relax, 21% needed to attend a doctor’s appointment, and 20% didn’t like the weather that particular day or merely wanted to catch up on sleep. It’s not surprising that a good number of these respondents will improperly also call in “FMLA” for that day.

Adding to the potential for “headaches” are the numerous and growing number of states and municipality leaves, which further complicate an already cumbersome administrative process. Work & Well and our team of dedicated nurse case managers, client leave specialist, and customer care professionals can help.

We provide complete medical certification for all leave types including ADAAA, clinical review on every case, timely employee notification, accurate tracking of leave time, state of the art 24/7 secure reporting, and 360-degree communication with all parties. Our program is completely customizable to our individual clients’ needs so that it meets your HR goals and ‘fits’ with your company’s culture.

With this unique process, Work & Well saves HR departments valuable time and money. By integrating medical leaves with our unparalleled system of precision case monitoring and streamlined, expert services, Work & Well’s clients feel secure knowing the risks associated with FMLA misuse are greatly diminished.