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FMLA Compliance Is Not as Easy as the Labor Department Says

February 12, 2013
Related Topics: Family and Medical Leave Act, Legal Compliance, Policies and Procedures
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In celebration of the Family and Medical Leave Act's 20th anniversary, the Department of Labor released the results of a survey of employers on their experiences managing the statute. According to the Labor Department, "employers generally find it easy to comply with the law, and … the vast majority of employers, 91 percent, report that complying with the FMLA has either no noticeable effect or a positive effect on business operations…."

That conclusion sounded so out of touch with reality that I decided to run my own (not so scientific) poll. I asked one simple question:

How difficult has it been for your company to comply with the FMLA?

200 responded (thanks to Jeff Nowak, the Evil HR Lady, and Robin Shea for the link-love). The results are not pretty for the Labor Department's credibility. Not so surprisingly, my poll reached the exact opposite conclusion.

  • Only 9.5 percent of respondents report that the FMLA compliance is very easy or somewhat easy.
  • Conversely, a whopping 68 percent report that FMLA compliance is very difficult or somewhat difficult.

The complete results:

Very difficult:

20.5 percent

Somewhat difficult:

47.5 percent

Average difficulty:

22.5 percent

Somewhat easy:

6.5 percent

Very easy:

3 percent

What do these results mean? It means that either the Labor Department found the only sample of employers in the country who have no issues managing FMLA compliance, or the Labor Department put so much spin on its survey results that its conclusions are not credible. Do I need to tell you that I think it's the latter?

I am saddened by the Labor Department's apparent chicanery. These tactics do not help raise FMLA awareness; they lower the Labor Department's credibility. It is no secret that (1) the United States lags behind the rest of world in workplace leave rights; and (2) the FMLA's mission is noble, albeit one that poses an administrative nightmare for conscientious employers. Surveys that rob the Labor Department of its credibility in enforcing this statute do not help employers comply with this law. Instead of creating surveys that mislead everyone into thinking that the FMLA is working, the labor Department should recognize that FMLA compliance is difficult and put its resources into helping employers meet its complex maze of requirements.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

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