In the past year, we’ve seen the DOL ratchet up its on-site FMLA investigations. So what can employers expect moving forward?
More on-site FMLA investigations by the feds where firms will be asked to fork over increasingly detailed info regarding their administration processes.
At least that’s what Helen Applewhaite said at a recent FMLA/ADA compliance conference.
And she should know. Applewhaite just became the DOL’s new FMLA Branch Chief. Here’s a rundown of what Applewhaite said employers can expect regarding the agency’s FMLA enforcement agenda.
A big year for FMLA enforcement
1. Prepare for the DOL to come on-site more often. If employers take one thing from Applewhaite’s presentation, it should be this: You need to prepare for a DOL visit. On-site visits by the DOL were virtually unheard of just a few years ago. But now it’s clear we’ve entered into the age of on-site FMLA investigations. And Applewhaite’s prediction that 2014 will be a “pivotal” year for FMLA should serve as a warning to employers everywhere that there’s no excuse for being unprepared when the DOL comes knocking.
2. Solid recordkeeping is a must. Applewhaite also said the DOL will be focusing on “systemic FMLA issues.” And FMLA Insights founder Jeff Nowak believes the DOL’s investigations will likely mirror the EEOC model moving forward. Translation: The feds will be asking for a slew of info beyond anything complained about in a single charge. Applewhaite herself said a standard request from the DOL will be for information over a two-year period.
3. Managers and employees will be involved. The DOL wants to know that both front-line supervisors and individuals in the leave process are clear on your FMLA policy — and that the policy gibes with the actual law. Managers will actually be expected to walk an agency investigator through an employee’s leave request, which makes supervisor training that much more important.