Fewer than 50? Avoid these FMLA mistakes

The unpaid yet job protecting power of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been a safety net for many American workers since its inception in 1993. The limits of FMLA protect small businesses who would find it overly burdensome to comply with the law.

However, if you are a company with fewer than 50 employees within 75 miles, you could end up having to honor an FMLA leave request because of avoidable mistakes. Here are mistakes businesses make and what your company can do to avoid taking on extra liability.

Lack of Knowledge

Make sure that all employees that are involved in human resources tasks know the FMLA law thoroughly. The law stipulates that to be eligible for FMLA leave, the employee must:

• Work for a company that has 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius

• Have worked for the company at least 12 months

• Have at least 1,250 work hours in the previous year

Lack of Preparation

Keep complete and up to date records of employees, their hours worked and their locations. Know what the 75-mile radius is from each business site. This makes it easy to have a quick and correct answer for an employee requesting leave.

Over Obligation

It’s a nice idea to want to grant your employees leave if they need it, but can your business handle it? Less personnel means a lowered ability to make adjustments when someone is out of the office for an extended period. In an all or nothing business world, you cannot extend a leave arrangement for one worker because, for example, it’s in your slow period and deny leave for another worker because it’s the busy season.

Inaccurate Documents

Scour all employee documents for any mention of FMLA leave. If your small business does not meet the criteria to offer it, there should be no indication that leave is available as an employee benefit. If any hint of FMLA leave is mentioned in your materials, you may be obligated under law to extend it to an employee that meets the criteria of the act.

It is a good idea to consult with legal counsel experienced in business law to ensure your human resources practices are sound. This can help you avoid the cost of extra employee liability.