Are you an HR Director? Did you know that you can be held personally liable for litigation and costly lawsuits as a result of handling FMLA requests that are not in compliant with federal law? Well, on March 17, 2016, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided that you can be held liable for FMLA mishandlings in Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, 2016. Ms. Graziadio requested FMLA on two separate occasions for two different family illness/injury instances. There was a question as to whether or not Ms. Graziadio’s request and leave was abusive, but due to the poor communication and requests on the part of the employer to provide the necessary documentation, Ms. Graziadio was able to be victorious in a lawsuit against her employer for not handling the FMLA request correctly. The HR Director responsible for handling the correspondence was also under analysis during this lawsuit, to determine whether or not she was responsible as the employer.
What can we, as HR professionals and company leaders, take away from this case?
- Know the FMLA laws – keep a copy handy for your supervisors, managers, and the HR staff.
- Have standard letters prepared – instead of scrambling for paperwork when an FMLA leave is requested, have something prepared that you can use for these leaves. It will streamline your process and ensure that the procedure is followed correctly across the company.
- Request medical certification from the employee within 5 days of the leave request – if the employer does not specifically request one, it is not required for the employee to present one.
- Be clear on the required information – if an employee’s medical certification is incomplete or insufficient, the employer must request in writing what additional information is necessary. Be clear, thorough, and specific!
- Train your staff on FMLA – employers (supervisors, HR staff, management) should be knowledgeable on FMLA so that questions can be answered CORRECTLY by these members of your team.
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