Recently a client asked me to come provide sexual harassment awareness and prevention training at their annual all employee training day. That is not only a best practice, but is fairly common training that most employers provide in some form or fashion (lawyer, HR, videos, or webinars). Surprisingly, however, the client also asked me to provide training to about 300 employees on the benefits provided to them under the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This client understands work-life balance and wants employees to know that these two laws provide for time off, and in the case of the ADA, other accommodations to allow employees to succeed at work, even when life throws them a curveball.
From the perspective of a practitioner who fields calls weekly from employer’s struggling with leave administration under the FMLA and evaluating requests for accommodation, it also gave me an opportunity to talk to a large group of employees about some of those employer frustrations on a macro level.
For example, human resources directors, leave administrators and frontline supervisors often complain that when an employee is away from work, the employee is often non- communicative about their status and intent to return to work. The perception is that the employee is intentionally being evasive and making it hard to plan for the employee’s absence or return. This point of contention might be avoided if employees are educated on their responsibilities under the FMLA and ADA, as well as their rights. Therefore, we took the opportunity to cover topics such as this in the training. I made sure to tell employees that employer is not being nosey when it asks follow-up questions about the reason for leave. The employer has to have sufficient information to be able to determine whether the leave is for a qualifying reason under the FMLA or might implicate the interactive process to determine if an accommodation is required under the ADA.
Perhaps most importantly, some employees were surprised to learn that it is the employee's primary responsibility for giving the employer sufficient information to alert the company of the need for leave or other accommodation even though employees do not have to invoke the terms “FMLA” or “ADA.”
Employees were also surprised to learn that their doctor can charge them to complete a Certification of Healthcare Provider that is required by most employers for compliance with the FMLA. While most employees are reluctant to talk about their health or the health of their family with HR, this training alleviated some of the employee's concerns.
At the end of the day when employees are educated on their rights and their responsibilities under these employee friendly statutes, the leave and accommodation process should run more smoothly for employers and employees alike. If you would like to discuss providing this training to your workforce, please feel free to call.
The information was written by Attorney Daniel L. Herrington of Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP. This is not a substitute for legal advice and should be considered for general guidance only. For more information or if you have further questions, please contact one of our Labor and Employment Practice Group Attorneys.