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Don’t Be the City of Chicago and Get Your FMLA Together!

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a labor law that states employers provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified family and medical reasons, was signed into law February 3, 1993, more than two decades ago.  Since then, amendments have been made. In 2008, the FMLA was amended to include military family leave. In 2015, it extended to include the revised version of “spouse” in regards to same-sex marriages and common-law marriages.

In all its iterations, FMLA can seem daunting for employers to understand, and after two decades violations are still occurring. Take note: the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication had three employees take leave under FMLA at the same time for various ailments. In actuality, the employees who took leave under FMLA jetted out of Chicago and hit the Caribbean for some fun in the sun. According to the Inspector General’s report, these city employees enjoyed a booze cruise, horseback riding, Caribbean island tours, and of course jet skis. These violators of FMLA have since been terminated.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Don’t make these common FMLA mistakes:

  1. Not having an FMLA policy: An FMLA policy states employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. It’s up to the employer to decide if the 12-month period begins at the start of the fiscal year or an internal 12-month calculation is used. Employers will also have to decide if FMLA includes paid leave and what the requirements are for paid leave.
  2. Not notifying employees of the FMLA policy: Employers must notify employees of FMLA rights either upon hiring or they must be posted in the place of business. An employee should never assume an employee knows their FMLA rights.
  3. Not verifying employee FMLA eligibility: Employees are eligible for FMLA after an employee has worked for 12 months over the previous seven years or after 1,250 hours over the previous year.
  4. Not consulting HR about employee leave: FMLA cannot be backdated, and managers are should advise HR when an employee requests FMLA and is eligible for it. There is a five-day notice for FMLA eligibility by the employers to the employees and failure of notice can result in major FMLA violations for the employer.
  5. Not keeping record of FMLA leave: Employers need to keep a record of all employee leave. Not tracking employee leave can possibly lead to uneven distribution of leave amongst employees which can lead to a discrimination violation. It’s recommended to retain a minimum of three years of FMLA records.

For more tips and advice from the employment screening experts at KRESS, contact us!


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