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Breaking HR Basics with FMLA

written by Kevin Quinn 

With all the jazz and daily changes of Obama Care, one really great outcome to focus on is that many companies are striving for exceptional wellness programs for their employees. Wellness exams are being strengthened today and are proven to have saved lives. For example, seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller had an appointment to see her doctor for a routine check-up, which she almost canceled. While there, she found out that her doctor had discovered an aggressive ovarian cancer. Her routine checkup just happened to save her life. Read more here.

Medical treatment is a necessity, and because we are human, it is something that will never go away. As an employer, wellness programs have a unique way of showing employees they are appreciated. Which as a result, reduces turnover and increases productivity.

Laurie is an instructor at Aurora University for an HR MBA program. During her first night of the summer term class, students introduced themselves. The discussion turned to FMLA (The Family and Medical Leave Act)  because one of the students asked Laurie how she started her HR consulting business. And of course, she told the truth; she was terminated the day she returned from an FMLA leave. As I mentioned, many companies strive for exceptional wellness programs, but others, not so much. The discussion had an interesting twist. One of the students asked, “Why do employees who have gone out on FMLA, have a negative light on them after they return?” Hmmm, good question, and really what is the answer? Another student added, “It happened to me. I was in a car accident. I had a seizure while on my way to work. I skipped the median, and my car ended up underneath a semi-truck.” He said, “Since my FMLA, I actually felt as if I had to leave that current company in order for me to advance my career. Why is that?”

Laurie, as an instructor and HR professional, stated,”I honestly don’t know. But I can tell you it is not uncommon.”  That’s why Valuable Resources exists: to bridge the gap between employers and employees, which is one key role of the HR professional. It is understandable that employers are concerned with productivity and the business as a whole, but singling out employees who have utilized their FMLA is unfortunately a very common practice. Further, it is unlawful and can cause employers to invite unnecessary lawsuits. As an HR professional, one is expected to educate employers on the laws to avoid these types of practices and to welcome a healthier work environment, in the end, it’s a win-win.Win-Win with VRC-HR

Laurie is an open book about her situation. “While I was working as the HR generalist at a large nation-wide company. I had suffered another flare-up and I had another PICC line, (a medical treatment for Cystic Fibrosis.) My doctor told me I would have to be out of the office for approximately four weeks, and he would sign the required paperwork for me to take FMLA. My supervisor approved my FMLA that stated I would be on leave for approximately four weeks. I kept in touch with my team and my supervisor regularly as expected and informed them of the date of my return. But unfortunately, I would need surgery. The outcome, the day I returned from FMLA, I was terminated”. “The excuse they gave me was poor performance.”Unveiled, Chapter 4.  https://vrc-hr.com/unveiled/

There are a few simple ways employers can avoid such unnecessary lawsuits, first and foremost, keep it human!

  • Follow the strict guidelines of FMLA.
  • If you don’t understand the specifics of FMLA, call a good consultant (like VRC-HR) to help you through it or even manage it.
  • Don’t create a culture in which employees are fearful of losing their job for seeking the medical attention they need.
  • Implement an exceptional wellness program.

In the end, it’s a win-win!