Category Archives: Benefits

Benefit planning inevitably involves tradeoffs between an ideal package and one that will maximize the desired impact at a price that can be afforded. These articles will provide how to information on managing the wide variety of benefits including health care, life, and disability insurance, and retirement benefits.

I Need to UNdesignate Some FMLA Leave; Is That OK?


"In yesterday’s Advisor we covered many of the requirements and pitfalls of FMLA designation; today, rules around mistaken designation. Once again, for help we turn to the guide many call the “ FMLA Bible.”"

What can you do if you discover that you’ve mistakenly designated leave as FMLA-qualifying? Several cases help point the way to the policy you should follow.

Employer’s Promise (Designation) Must Be Kept

Some courts have held that employees are entitled to FMLA protections based on representations made by the employer, even if the employer’s representation is based on a mistaken designation. (See Murphy v. FedEx National LTL, Inc., 618 F.3d 893 (8th Cir. 2010); and Daniel Dobrowski v. Jay Dee Contractors, Inc. (6th Cir. 2009).)

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Designating FMLA— First Place Employers Fail


"Employers’ FMLA obligations are many, and pitfalls abound. One of the earliest places to make a mistake is in the supposedly simple act of designating the leave as FMLA-qualifying. For help, we turned to the “FMLA Bible.”"

When the employer has enough information to determine whether the leave is being taken for a FMLA-qualifying reason (e.g., after receiving a certification), the employer must notify the employee whether the leave will be designated and will be counted as FMLA leave within 5 business days, absent extenuating circumstances.

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Win-Win Approach to Managing ‘Unplanned’ FMLA Leave


"In yesterday’s Advisor, we covered the first three of attorney Stacie Caraway’s tips for avoiding FMLA abuse. Today, the rest of her tips, plus an introduction to the guide many call “The FMLA Bible.”"

Caraway, who is a member of Miller & Martin PLLC, in the Chattanooga office, offered six tips for reducing FMLA abuse during a recent webinar sponsored by BLR. Here are tips four to six for dealing with FMLA abuse.

[Go here for tips 1 to 3]

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Danger Zone—FMLA Certs Are Like a Pre-Nup


"If you don’t take advantage of your Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) tools, and you don’t do all you could or should do, you have only yourself to blame when there’s abuse, says attorney Stacie Caraway."

Caraway, who is a member of Miller & Martin PLLC, in the Chattanooga office, offered six tips for reducing FMLA abuse during a recent webinar sponsored by BLR®. Here are her six tips for dealing with FMLA abuse.

Tip # 1—Don’t Accept ‘Unknown’ Certs

FMLA certifications (certs) are like an “FMLA prenuptial agreement,” says Caraway. Once you certify leave based on a cert that says “unknown” or “as needed,” your hands are tied; you can’t change the agreement until that cert expires. That means you’ve given your employee carte blanche to come and go as he or she pleases.

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PA Mistake #7—Gaming the System


"In yesterday’s Advisor, we began our tour of the 10 Sins of Performance Appraisers; today, the sins 7 through 10."

[Go here for sins 1 to 6.]

Sin #7. Gaming the system

“John’s work is just OK, to be sure, but I need to give him a big raise to keep him, so he gets an ‘excellent.’”
“I can’t stand Sandy, but I can’t transfer him unless he has a high rating; let his next manager deal with him.”

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Performance Appraisals—10 Most Common Sins


"Performance appraisals—love them or hate them, it’s easy to make expensive mistakes. We’ve collected the most common errors of managers and supervisors who conduct performance appraisals. We call them the “10 Sins.”"

Sin #1. Failure to set meaningful goals

“Well, Sandy, I think we did fairly well this year, eh?”
“Tracy, I was sort of hoping you’d make more progress this year.”

Evaluation is difficult when there aren’t clear, measurable goals. Many experts recommend the S-M-A-R-T approach to setting goals. That means goals should be:

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Out of PTO, Can’t Deduct, What Can You Do?


"In yesterday’s Advisor, we explored the tricky issue of exempt employees who have exhausted their paid time off (PTO). Today, we’ll look at what to do when deducting pay is not an option."

Here’s how to approach the situation:

  • First, if it is important for the employees to be in the office during consistent work hours, make sure that is explained in a written policy. If the policy does not yet exist, create it if this is critical to your business. Make it part of the employee handbook that must be acknowledged. Once a policy exists, enforce it consistently for all employees, using the disciplinary measures already in place with your disciplinary policy.
  • Next, consistently enforce the PTO rules for all employees. If PTO must be taken for miscellaneous work time missed, such as when an employee must show up late for any reason, then it should always be enforced. Don’t fall into the trap of only enforcing it for the employees who request the time in advance; put a mechanism in place to ensure that PTO is deducted when it needs to be, even if it wasn’t previously requested. Alternatively, if PTO is not required to be taken in this case, don’t make the mistake of “punishing” one employee by deducting PTO for times it should not be required.
  • Be sure that employees understand what other leave types are available to them. Don’t find yourself in a situation, for example, where an employee qualified for FMLA leave but never requested it because he or she was unaware of options. It’s equally important to be sure to train supervisors to know what to look for—employees don’t always say “I need to take an FMLA leave of absence” or “I need a reasonable accommodation for my disability.”

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When Exempt Employee Has No PTO, Takes Time Off


"PTO banks are working well for many employers. They simplify time off requests, and they can also be a way to ensure that salaried employees do not take advantage of their salaried status by taking time off without boundaries. However, when poorly administered, PTO can cause employees to lose their exemptions."

PTO helps to bridge the gap between being required to pay salaried employees their full salary in a given workweek (even if they don’t work a full workweek), while also balancing how much time off can be taken without it becoming a problem.

Employers often find themselves in a conundrum, however, over how to handle miscellaneous time off that was never even requested as PTO. For example, what happens when the work hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but an employee has a personal appointment that requires him or her to arrive late? Usually this is not much of a question—that employee takes PTO for the time off and comes in as soon as possible and still receives a full salary for the week. But what if that employee doesn’t have any more PTO left to use? What if it’s not an appointment, it’s just a significantly late arrival time?

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FMLA Certification: Getting Clarification and Authentication

What should an employer do when an FMLA certification form is received that is unclear? Perhaps it's filled out completely, but the handwriting is illegible in some places. Or perhaps it appears as though it may have been filled out by someone other than the person who signed it. What actions can be taken without violating HIPAA or other employee privacy rights?

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Survey Results: Telecommuting Policies and Dress Codes


"Yesterday’s Advisor offered survey data on standard and nonstandard perks. Today, data on telecommuting, dress codes, plus demographic data concerning survey participants."

[For the beginning of the survey report, go here.]

Telecommuting

Formal telecommuting guidelines are in place and employees are required to sign a formal agreement for 23.8%. An allowance to cover employee expenses for setting up telecommuting at their home is provided by 33.1%, 40.3% reimburse telecommuting employees for monthly Internet connections, and 54.2% reimburse for telephone expenses.

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