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June 28, 2007
Biggest FMLA Headache: Intermittent Leave

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a report with a comprehensive review of the thousands of public comments received regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act FMLA) regulations and their impact in the workplace.

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In December 2006, the department published a Request for Information, seeking comments about on a series of questions covering intermittent FMLA leave, the definition of "eligible employee" under FMLA, the definition of "serious health condition" under FMLA, leave determinations/medical certifications, and other FMLA topics.

The department says it received about 15,000 comments.

"The 15,000 comments from workers, employers and others attest to the importance of family and medical leave for America's caregiving workforce," says Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant secretary of labor for the department's Employment Standards Administration. "While family and medical leave is widely supported, we also heard from many workers and employers that there are challenges with the way certain aspects are being administered. This report provides information for a fuller discussion about how some of the key FMLA provisions and their interpretations have played out in the workplace."

The comments highlight that unscheduled intermittent leave is the single most serious area of friction between employers and workers.

The report says that unscheduled intermittent FMLA leave appears to be affecting to a greater degree industries whose operations have a highly time-sensitive component--such as delivery, transportation, transit, telecommunications, health care, assembly-line manufacturing, and public safety.

Another major area of concern, on the part of workers, employers and healthcare providers, is the medical certification process.

The report's executive summary is available on the Internet here. The full report is available here.

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