Federal agents step up ‘surprise’ FMLA investigations

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with more than 50 workers must allow qualified employees to take up to three months of unpaid leave for personal medical reasons or to care for a sick family member.

At a recent conference, a senior Department of Labor official stated that compliance with the law has been a problem, and that the Department’s enforcement division planned to step up its on-site investigations into whether employers are following the law.

Investigators won’t necessarily show up unannounced, but they may arrive with only one or two days’ notice. The Department is looking particularly closely at what it considers violation-prone industries, including those with a lot of low-wage workers, physical laborers and non-union employees.

At a minimum, companies should make sure that their FMLA notices are posted in the workplace so that they’re visible to both employees and job applicants, and that their FMLA policy is up to date, incorporating recent changes that expand the law to include military leave.