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“Leaving” The Year Behind: 2019 Leave Management In Review | Part 3

Leave case managers discussing 2019 DOL opinion letters

With a new year upon us, what better time to reflect on changes made in 2019? As an employer or leave manager, you have a lot of information to retain from the previous year, including new leave laws that went into effect and even changes made to existing leave laws. On top of this, the US Department of Labor (DOL) issued three new opinion letters in 2019.

The DOL's Wage and Hour Division frequently produces model forms and opinion letters on topics such as the FMLA, to help you have a better grasp on what it means to be compliant. Here’s a recap of the three opinion letters that the DOL issued in 2019:  

Letter 1: The obligation to designate FMLA-qualifying leave and prohibition on expanding FMLA leave

Two issues were presented in the first DOL opinion letter. One was whether an employer can allow their employees to use their available sick leave (or any other leave) instead of using FMLA leave when the leave is qualified as FMLA (i.e. the employee just gave birth and will be caring for the newborn). The other issue was whether an employer can authorize an employee to extend their FMLA leave beyond their 12-week entitlement. The simple answer to both of these is no.

Letter 2: Attending a Committee on Special Education meeting to discuss a child’s Individualized Education Program qualifies as FMLA leave

The second DOL opinion letter addressed whether an employee can take FMLA leave to attend a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting to go over the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of their son/daughter. These meetings involve reviewing a child’s progress and discussing their educational and medical needs, and are for children who suffer from a serious health condition. Since this involves caring for a child that has a serious health condition, this would qualify as FMLA leave. 

Letter 3: Can an employer delay designating paid leave as FMLA leave due to a collective bargaining agreement?

The third DOL opinion letter of 2019 clarified whether an employer may delay designating paid leave as FMLA leave, when the delay satisfies the regulations of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the employee prefers that the designation is postponed. The short answer to this is no, neither an employee nor an employer can refuse FMLA leave when the reason for the leave qualifies as FMLA (as communicated by the employee). 

As a leave manager, it’s critical to stay on top of leave law changes throughout the year. This also includes having a firm grasp on them. Thankfully, the DOL issues opinion letters so that you can understand any grey areas when it comes to the FMLA and leave management, helping you stay compliant. 

Keep an eye on our blog for upcoming laws in 2020 - we think it’s going to be another active year! Our cloud-based leave solutions are also always kept up-to-date, to provide you with the relevant information to manage absences compliantly, no matter how complex they are! 

Should you have any questions regarding these updates and new laws, please consult your organization’s legal counsel.

About Presagia

Founded in 1987, Presagia has a long history of helping organizations solve complex business problems with easy-to-use solutions. Today, this means providing cloud-based absence management solutions that enable organizations to be more efficient, control lost time and risk, and strengthen compliance with federal, state and municipal leave and accommodation laws.

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