Changes on the Horizon: FMLA Update Part 1

F-M-L-A.

Four little letters that strike terror in the hearts of HR Managers around the country. And it’s not for want of trying. Employers want to comply–they really do. But the FMLA doesn’t make it easy. Enacted with good intentions, the statute and its enforcement regulations have become one of the biggest employer complaints. Business groups have been calling for a substantial revision of the “FMLA Regs” for some time. The Regs have made compliance cumbersome and difficult to truly understand. Unfortunately, they have also enabled the statute to be grossly misused by not-so-well-intended employees.

On February 8th, the Department of Labor took a major step towards an answer to the cries of employers and business-protection organizations by publishing new proposed regulations. Getting here has been a long time in the making. In 1996 and again in 2001, the DOL published studies on how the FMLA was being administered. Several decisions from the Supreme Court and countless lower court rulings have also had a great impact on how the Regs have been interpreted. And, in 2006, the DOL posted a Request for Information (RFI), in response to which it received 15,000 public comments, which were summarized in the DOL’s June 2007 Report on the RFI.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is intended to be the culmination of these sources of comment and feedback.

At this stage of the rulemaking process, the proposed Regs are open for comment until April 11, 2008. Comments can be made online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. After the commenting period closes, the DOL will review the comments and, at some point, publish new regulations.

Employers are encouraged to post their comments to the proposed regs as we work towards a clarified and improved set of FMLA rules.

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