What Are Reasonable Accommodations for Disability Related Absences?

Posted on

August 30th, 2021


shutterstock_306793247 - CopyWhen an employee is absent on a frequent basis, many employers take steps to remediate the issue. If the problem continues, the employee may face disciplinary action. However, when the absences are due to a disability, employers need to take a different approach. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers clinical depression a disability. If an employee’s depression affects their ability to come into work, employers need to develop a plan to accommodate the employee without hurting office morale. This can prove even more nuanced when some or all of your workforce are remote.

Balancing Accommodations and Attendance

A common issue employers face: when an employee requests more time off after exhausting their family medical leave and/or short-term disability leave. Numerous court cases show it is reasonable for employers to expect their employees to attend work on a regular basis. However, it is less clear what qualifies as reasonable accommodations for the employee to return to work.
A recent court case shed some light on this issue. An employee with depression and anxiety requested flexible start times as well as a 10-minute break for every two hours of work. The employee suffered from panic attacks and requested the accommodations to help calm down after anxiety attacks. The Court of Appeals found these accommodations were not reasonable for numerous reasons:

  • The employee worked in a customer service position requiring them to answer phone calls; the court determined regular attendance was necessary to complete the main function of this job
  • The court determined flexible start times with planned breaks was not reasonable because the employee’s panic attacks were unpredictable
  • The court found it was not reasonable for the employee to request more time off beyond their exhausted FMLA and disability leave because the employee’s physician could not give a specific time the employee could return to work

Employers need to evaluate each employee’s request with care before making a decision about accommodations. In the example above, the court provided some guidelines for where to draw the line, but each case is different. To learn more about absence management, contact the experts at Actec.

Top Absence Management Issues and How to Resolve Them

Posted on

February 26th, 2018


Many companies are still unsure of how to handle certain absence management issues such as adhering to government regulations, creating absence policies and instituting workflows to ensure that all absence administration is handled quickly and efficiently. While there are more resources available, organizations are often confused regarding what tools they need to create an effective absence management policy.
Top Absence Management Issues
The top four issues most companies face today are:shutterstock_174966584 sm

  • Implementing state and federal leave laws
  • Adhering to the ADA Amendments Act
  • Ensuring employees can safely perform duties after an injury
  • Having adequate staff resources for efficient absence administration

Without the right knowledge and resources, companies suffer from an increase in absenteeism, more overtime expenses to cover for absent employees and a decrease in production.
Centralized Absence Management Portal
Companies need to create written absence and return-to-work policies for employees and management to refer to when dealing with casual absences and leaves of absence. An interactive strategy that correlates employees, HR and management will also be beneficial in reporting and monitoring employee leave. In order to leverage written policies and interactive absence strategies, businesses also need a central hub for reporting absences, including:

  • Short- Term Disability
  • FMLA Absences
  • Military Duty Leave
  • Jury Duty Leave
  • Funeral/Bereavement
  • Casual (sickness, injury, tardy, family issues, etc.)

If you are looking for more information regarding absence reporting or employee management, contact the experts at Actec today.

How to Stop FMLA Abuse in its Tracks

Posted on

January 15th, 2018


fmlaWhile most employers don’t begrudge their employees taking legitimate leave, problems arise when employees begin to abuse FMLA with intermittent absences. This type of fraud is difficult to tackle due to numerous and complex Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Even so, businesses can take several steps to curtail fraudulent, intermittent leave.

Understanding FMLA

Before addressing suspected leave abuse, employers must understand FMLA. The act allows eligible staff members to take 12 weeks of leave for medical reasons including to care for sick family members. FMLA also allows military caregivers to take up to 26 weeks of leave. Under FMLA, employees can take this leave without running the risk of losing their job. This includes repercussions, so employers cannot demote absent employees protected by FMLA.
Problems begin to occur when employees determine how they will take their leave, as FMLA does not make such stipulations. Employees can take their leave in one fell swoop or they can take it in intermittent blocks. If an employee opts for intermittent leave, they must provide their employers with 30 days’ notice. However, intermittent leave is not always foreseeable; in this instance, employees only need to provide notice as soon as is feasible. This last part is what allows for much of the existing FMLA abuse.

Strategies to Tackle Leave Misuse

Employers who believe staff members are misusing FMLA have some options available to them. When an employer receives notice for the need for FMLA leave from their employees, they can request a doctor’s note certifying that intermittent leave is necessary. If the employee returns with a doctor’s note, and the employer still has suspicions, they can do the following:

  • Request a second medical opinion. If the second opinion differs from the first, employers can seek a third opinion to provide a majority rule.
  • Request that employees provide a re-certification every 30 days or when the minimum duration of the condition passes.
  • Require employees to submit a fitness-for-duty certification before allowing them to return to work with no restrictions. This helps reduce claims of relapse.
  • Require employees to provide status reports on a regular basis to stay abreast of their progress and recovery.

Some leave abuse is obvious, such as when an employee is only absent on Mondays or Fridays. If an employer has reason to doubt the employee’s stated reasons for needing leave, they can request a re-certification. While most FMLA leave requests are legitimate, employers cannot afford to overlook fraud. Taking proactive steps to mitigate leave abuse helps improve workplace morale and productivity. To learn more about managing employee absences and leave requests, contact the experts at Actec.

Get Your Company’s Intermittent Leave Under Control

Posted on

July 12th, 2016


shutterstock_227384539 - CopyOne of the most difficult leaves to manage from a Human Resource and management standpoint is FMLA Intermittent Leave. With employees on a reduced work schedule, employers often find it difficult to preserve productivity, managers struggle to keep a shift adequately staffed, and HR has difficulty accurately maintaining the employee’s FMLA leave bank. If your company can get intermittent leave under control, your organization will be able to maintain compliance while returning to optimum levels of productivity.
FMLA Intermittent Leave
Most employees will leave for a specific period of time if they are sick or injured. Once they are better, these employees will return to work and resume their duties without complications.
In some instances, however, an injury or illness will require an employee to take multiple leaves of absence. In addition, when the employee is at work, they may not be able to work their standard number of hours in a workweek or be able to complete all of their duties. For example, if the employee was full time before their injury, they may need to become part-time while they recover from their injury. They may also have to leave for several surgeries and spend time away from work to recuperate.
Employers find this type of intermittent absence one of the most difficult FMLA leaves to track for compliance and productivity. In fact, two-thirds of HR managers rank FMLA Intermittent leave as the most difficult to track and maintain.
One Call Solution
By creating a reporting system where employees can call in absences, companies can streamline their absence management process. And by using software that can report an intermittent leave absence and apply it to the employee’s FMLA leave bank, the company is one step closer to getting administration and compliance under control.
FMLA Intermittent leave takes planning, organization and a proactive strategy to maintain efficient employee utilization. To help learn how to get our company’s intermittent leave under control, contact the experts at Actec today.

What A Rubber Stamp Absence Policy Costs Your Business

Posted on

June 28th, 2016


shutterstock_174875483Many companies struggle with aligning absence management, employee efficiency, and legal compliance. This often leads to a “rubber stamp” mentality when dealing with FMLA and state leave issues. What employers frequently fail to understand is that such policies this policy is a direct result of absence abuse and loss of company productivity.
FMLA Litigation Costs
Litigation in FMLA cases costs an average of $78,000. This leads businesses to believe that they need to avoid a potential lawsuit at all costs. Rubber stamping FMLA leave requests seems like a less expensive solution to the problem.
Unique Leave Requirements
Another factor in creating a rubber stamp policy is the fact that approximately 95% of employees work in a state that has unique leave requirements. This makes managing and tracking leave entitlements difficult, especially if the company has offices in more than one state. When management becomes too complicated, granting an employee’s leave request seems like the easiest solution.
An Alternative to Rubber Stamp Policies
The money that a rubber stamp policy costs in productivity loss and employee efficiency can cost some organizations far more than the possible litigation of an FMLA case.
The first step in creating an effective absence management strategy is an absence audit to determine if revisions are necessary. One of the first signs of a potential rubber stamp issue is an existence of absence abuse. If HR doesn’t investigate an employee’s state or FMLA absence request, this can encourage an increase in false claims.
If the audit shows that your company needs to revise its current legal compliance policy, then you need to design a system that can manage and track all leave entitlements. This will help to reduce false claims and help to show your company is in compliance with all requirements.
A comprehensive absence tracking and management system can help you replace your rubber stamp policy with a strategy that will manage unique leave requirements and employee productivity. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more.

Webinar: FMLA & Total Absence Management – Turning a Weakness into an Opportunity

Posted on

May 13th, 2016


In this Actec Systems educational webinar subject matter experts John Hearn and Michael Godwin review practical strategies and solutions to logistical challenges in absence management and absence reporting. From administrative retroactive adjustments to compliance inconsistencies and poor clinical handoffs, absence management programs can cause difficulty for even the most organized businesses. Pinpoint your organization’s challenges as we review the following topics:
* Practical absence process vs. compliance details
* Understanding perspectives of various stakeholders
* Identifying and circumventing industry limitations
* Seeing the bigger picture regarding absence management

For a copy of the slides, click here. To learn more about absence reporting, contact us.

You May Not Have a Handle on FMLA

Posted on

May 3rd, 2016


Adhering to the Family and Medical Leave Act is a management issue for many employers. If you think that you have a handle on FMLA management, you may be wrong. Most companies run into issues with FMLA compliance, and those issues can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
dolThree Common FMLA Issues
There are three main areas where many companies struggle with FMLA compliance.
Those areas are:

  • Determining if an employee has a qualifying health condition
  • Deciphering State and Federal leave laws
  • Tracking FMLA intermittent absences

Unknown FMLA Facts
Here are some other facts you may not realize about FMLA management:

  • Tracking FMLA related absences makes up 6% of payroll costs
  • The Department of Labor initiates 43% of FMLA related investigations
  • If a company loses a FMLA case, it can cost over $500,000

Managing FMLA absences is important to maintain compliance. Even if you feel you have intermittent and extended absence management under control, your company may not be handling them in an efficient manner.
Effective absence management requires a comprehensive strategy and an effective way to track and manage all absences. Contact the experts at Actec to learn how they can help you track absences and ensure compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act.