Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Caring, Compliance, and Confidentiality

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Caring, Compliance, and Confidentiality

Article excerpt

What supervisors don't know about FMLA can burn them

The health and wellness of our communities is a high priority for park and recreation agencies and for NRPA, but the health and wellness of the people who are the driving force behind the scenes - your staff - should be a high priority as well.

Attention to employee wellness might come naturally to people who work in the field of parks and recre- ation, but despite your best efforts, it's inevitable that someone will fall off the wellness wagon. Most of the time it's a cold and a couple of days off, but what if it's a serious illness? Your first desire is that your employ- ee just get better, but realistically you have to keep operations up and running as well.

Warning: Soup is HOT!

Soup and sickness are the perfect partners, right? Who doesn't ap- preciate a steaming bowl of chick- en noodle when they're under the weather? But if your employee has a serious health condition, it's you who will get a bowl of steaming soup delivered - alphabet soup. Get ready for FMLA, HIPAA, FAQRSTUVWXYZ and a side or- der several other scrambled letters that can be hot to handle.

FMLA: The Family

Medical Leave Act

You will likely be relying on your Human Resources (HR) department to navigate the administration and compliance of the complexities of FMLA (and other related acronyms,) but managers need to know enough about employment regulations to know when they may apply, what the supervisor's responsibilities and lim- its are, and what needs to get referred to HR.

In brief, FMLA protects an em- ployee's job from loss or adverse ef- fects of extended leave when he or she has to take time off to deal with a serious health condition (their own or that of a family member). As long as the employee meets the requirements (worked at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months and can document the condition and need for leave), then they are entitled to up to 12 weeks per year of medical leave. Of course, the sooner you re- fer an FMLA situation to your HR department, the sooner they can take over the details, qualifications and steps. The things that are crit- ical for you to know are the things that come up between you and your employee long before the situation reaches HR.

Routine Sick Days or FMLA?

Unfortunately, there's no simple for- mula to answer that - the devil's in the details. Some employees are more than happy to give you all the unpleasant details of their ailment while others will just request the day off and mark it "sick." If their situ- ation qualifies for FMLA, however, then they are entitled to its protec- tions even if they didn't ask for it, want it or know it existed.

Suspicion = Obligation

It's a common misconception that employees have to formally request FMLA in writing in order to trigger the employer's obligation to take the appropriate steps. Not true. If your employee requests some time off to deal with a medical issue for either themself or a family mem- ber, they don't even need to know the letters "FMLA" for your obliga- tions to be triggered. The employ- ee need only mention a qualifying condition for you to have a duty to investigate.

While the legal requirements should be sufficient motivation, ac- cording to the employee medical management experts at Care Works USA, "If a supervisor has knowledge of a serious health condition, FMLA request or a potential FMLA quali- fying event and does not take active measures to pass that information along to the appropriate party (in most cases, HR), the supervisor can be held personally liable for damages. …

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