FMLA Best Practices

Not surprisingly, employee medical leave requests can spike in the summertime. If your organization is challenged with managing medical leave in the workplace, here are several best practices for administering the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

1.    Update and communicate your policy. Make sure your organization has an updated policy and communicates this policy to employees and supervisors. Your policy should be detailed and conform to the latest Department of Labor (DOL) regulations.

2.    Request advanced notice. The simplest way to limit FMLA’s impact on your business is to request notice of leave at least 30 days in advance, which will allow you to make other staffing arrangements and coordinate the proper paperwork. 

3.    Use medical certification and recertification forms filled out by an employee’s doctor instead of doctor’s notes. If there is incomplete or insufficient information on the form, follow-up with the employee and request additional information by a certain time, or directly contact his/her doctor (with the employee’s permission). Frequency and duration are typically areas where you may need to ask for additional clarification.

4.    Don’t be afraid to ask for more information or a second or third medical opinion if you aren’t able to determine whether the health condition or situation qualifies. Also, don’t be afraid to deny an employee’s request if it doesn’t meet the standards of a serious health condition or if he or she doesn’t comply with your policy.

5.    Assess if ADA applies. If you determine that an employee does not qualify for FMLA for their health or medical condition, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) may still apply, in which you will need to accommodate. ADA may apply for approved FMLA as well.

6.    Meet one-on-one with employees. Meet with employees one-on-one to review the FMLA process. Create a checklist or process outline for them that details which forms they need to submit, by what deadlines, how payroll/benefit deductions will be dealt with during their leave, points of contact for changes in their leave, and other important information.

7.    Treat all FMLA-related occurrences equally and be consistent with your requirements. For instance, if you request a return to work form from one employee, make sure all employees fill out this form as well. If you require one employee to use PTO concurrently, make sure all employees are required to do the same.

8.    Train and update supervisors. Ensure that supervisors are well-trained on their role in the FMLA process and when they need to direct their employees to HR. You should also communicate to supervisors details about the employee’s leave, specifically schedule changes.

9.    Limit disruptions to your operations. Intermittent leave can often be more disruptive to a business’s operations, depending on an employee’s role. Request that employees schedule their treatment or appointments in ways that are least disruptive, or consider transferring the employee to a different job (although be aware that there are certain legal guidelines for transfers when FMLA applies).

10.  Use rolling 12 month periods instead of a calendar year, fixed 12-month leave year (such as by an employee’s employment anniversary), or 12 month period based on the date that an employee’s FMLA leave begins. Using rolling periods helps prevent stacking of leave and is favored over other methods.

11.  Require concurrent use of other paid time. Many employers require employees to use paid leave concurrently, such as PTO. This can help reduce abuse of FMLA. But also be aware, that some progressive employers do not require this, and even offer other additional paid leaves to supplement FMLA and support their employees.

12.  Offer flexible schedules. A variety of flexible schedules (compressed work weeks, part-time options, flexible start and end times, allowing employees to make up time, etc.) can help limit use of intermittent FMLA, by providing an employee with the flexibility to manage their schedule versus requesting leave for intermittent situations. 

13.  Research suspicious behavior or patterns. If you have honest suspicions or reasons to believe that an employee is improperly using FMLA, you are entitled to research these situations or patterns of behavior. For example, if you suspect that an employee is abusing FMLA (such as infamously taking off on Mondays and/or Fridays), research the issue or ask the employee’s health care provider if the patterns of time off are consistent with the employee’s condition or course of treatment.

14.  Reduce manual tracking and administration. Manual methods (i.e. spreadsheets) are prone to error especially when tracking intermittent leave and other leave concurrently with FMLA. Frequently, employers may miscalculate hours which costs their organization time and money. Using a system specifically designed for FMLA tracking or an HRIS can be beneficial in reducing error and yield excellent ROI.  

15.  Conduct due-diligence when applying discipline and terminating an employee on FMLA or for excessive absence. Review employees’ absences to make sure that they were not FMLA-qualifying. In addition, make sure that you are able to prove that you would have laid off or fired the employee regardless of them being on FMLA leave.

As a final thought, the best advice we can offer relative to administering FMLA is to talk with employees. Make sure they understand the process, and openly discuss any questions you have with them about their leave and the certification process. Also, when in doubt, we always recommend that employers consult the DOL regulations pertaining to FMLA. These regulations provide a great deal of information about how to execute and administer leave.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application. 


 Additional Resources

HR Essentials
This course gives a broad overview of the human resource function, and is designed for anyone involved with human resources. It gives attendees the skills necessary to face difficult HR situations and compliance issues, and is appropriate for HR Specialists, Administrative Assistances, Controllers, Office Managers, Recruiters, HR Generalists and Executive Assistants. Topics to be covered in the session include FMLA and other labor laws/employee relations issues.

CareWorks USA
Our new preferred partner CareWorks USA provides a variety of FMLA administrative services including leave tracking, reporting, communication with employees, compliance, and much more. ERC Members receive a 5% discount off per employee per month fee or a $500 discount off Initial Set-up Fee.


ERC Health Renews Record 95% of Pool

2011 represented ERC Health’s middle market program’s largest renewal ever, with 95% of the groups eligible for renewal staying with ERC Health. One of the most compelling reasons groups found to remain in the pool was the ability for the pool to have created such a rate differential with the market. 

The ERC Health program over the years has released well below market trend pricing year after year allowing for a significant difference versus higher new business rates from competitors.  In fact, 2011 was the eleventh consecutive year that ERC Health rates have beaten the market averages. The experience of the July 1 renewal is a testament to the program’s structure and to the groups statewide that leverage ERC Health for long term cost savings and better health.  

The ERC Health middle market program is designed for companies with more than 50 benefit eligible employees and is underwritten by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Some of the benefits include free fitness club memberships for employees, on-site wellness coaches and access to all major hospital systems!

“We are thrilled to share this news with our ERC Health organizations,” comments Pat Perry, President of ERC. “The program is continuing to grow and be a model of how to proactively manage your health insurance costs. It allows organizations to control costs both short and long term while providing new and innovative ways to keep employees happy and healthy. The focus has been on reducing claims through health education, risk reduction, wellness and proper plan designs.  We’re delighted with these results, but are already looking forward to more enhancements to the ERC Health program later this year that will make it even more exciting for participants.”

ERC is one of Ohio's leading organizations dedicated to HR, workplace programs and practices, training, health insurance and consulting. ERC membership provides employers access to HR information, expertise and cost savings that supports the attraction, retention, and development of great employees. We also host the nationally recognized NorthCoast 99 program and sponsor the ERC Health insurance program.

Mixed Salary Trends for Engineers

According to the 2011 ERC Salary Survey, engineering jobs have shown mixed salary trends from 2008. Many engineering jobs showed modest or no increases, while others, particularly high-level engineering jobs, showed higher increases from 2008.


Engineering Jobs with the Highest Salary Increases from 2008







% Increase from ’08

Engineering Cost Estimator






Engineering Project Manager






Engineer III






Engineer IV






Manufacturing Engineer Manager







Among the jobs that showed more modest increases from 2008, and only slight increases or no increases from 2010, were Application Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Industrial Engineers, Manufacturing Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Plant Engineers, Process Engineers, Quality Engineers, and lower level Engineers (Engineer I and Engineer II). Salaries reported for engineering technician jobs followed a similar trend.

For more information about the ERC Salary Survey, please click here

ERC partners with Aztek to provide members web marketing solutions

NORTHEAST OHIO – ERC has partnered with Aztek (, one of Northeast Ohio’s oldest and most prominent web services firms, to offer its members discounted pricing on Aztek’s web services. ERC members will receive a preferred rate on the following services:

  • Website design and development
  • Web application design and development
  • Mobile application design and development
  • Web Marketing (Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media)
  • Hosting

Aztek’s time-tested methodology (Aztek’s Process) for developing sophisticated business solutions is a guarantee to fit your business model. From manufacturing to nonprofit, from extreme sports to conservative law firms, Aztek has worked with over 550 clients, hosts several thousand websites and has the flexibility, as well as the experience, to customize a solution to fit your business needs. 

“We’re very excited to partner with Aztek and offer this savings to our membership,” said Pat Perry, President of ERC. “Their experience and array of web services make for a great fit with our organization.” 

“We are very pleased to become a new Preferred Partner with ERC. It will be a true compliment to the other Preferred Partner opportunities available to ERC members,” said Kevin Latchford, Aztek’s COO.

ERC is one of Ohio's leading organizations dedicated to HR, workplace programs and practices, training, health insurance and consulting. ERC membership provides employers access to HR information, expertise and cost savings that supports the attraction, retention, and development of great employees. We also host the nationally recognized NorthCoast 99 program and sponsor the ERC Health insurance program.

20 Tips for Managing Young Employees

We hire them for their fresh knowledge, strong technical skills, and growth potential, but managing young people effectively requires a different strategy than some of your other employees, given their lack of business and work experience. Here are 20 tips for managing young workers.

   1.  Help them transition from college to work. Transitioning from student to employee can be a time of confusion, anxiety, exploration, and excitement. Recognize that each employee handles this transition differently and requires a different level of support from your organization. Think of ways that you can support your new employee in this time of change, whether that’s help with relocation or financial support for continuing education.

2.    Assign them to the right manager.  A young employee needs the right type of manager – one that enjoys teaching, mentoring, developing, and spending time interacting with their employees, since this is the focus of their interests. They also need a manager who is a strong communicator, isn’t afraid to provide frequent feedback, and values employee ideas and suggestions. Your traditional or untrained managers may not be the right fit for a young employee.

3.    Create a good on-boarding program. While it may be tempting to drop your young employee into an assignment right away with limited training, young employees usually need a more detailed and lengthy on-boarding experience to get started on the right foot. Spend the time up-front to make sure they are well-trained to carry out their job responsibilities, understand the business and its products/services, and are comfortable with your operating procedures.

4.    Fill the experience gap by providing just that: experiences. Job experiences should be many and varied and the employee needs to be involved in actually doing the work. Some managers are resistant to putting a younger employee on a more challenging project because of their lack of experience; however, recognize that the employee will only be as valuable to your organization as you let them be. With the right amount of task structure and supervision, potential risks can be minimized.

5.    Invest in them early. Make sacrifices in productivity early on to develop skill gaps in your young employees. Top organizations invest in young employees early in their career – and oftentimes right from the day one. They assess skill gaps right away, lay out structured development plans, and focus heavily on training and development in their first few years – sometimes even in lieu of a full workload. Once the right foundation has been laid, these organizations find that young workers are better equipped to contribute at a higher level later in their careers.  

6.    Give them attention. Young workers know that they have a lot to learn from others and expect more attention from their boss as a result. They don’t necessarily want autonomy, especially if they aren’t skilled yet at their job tasks. Once they become skilled, autonomy may become more valuable to them. They do expect to be heard and want their employers to listen to and value their input.

7.    Provide constant feedback. An annual performance review is not enough performance feedback for your young employees. They like and will need constant feedback as they navigate their tasks and responsibilities. They will also need affirmation as they progress. Managers should meet with young employees often for these purposes.

8.    Re-think how work is done. Younger employees don’t always approach work and life separately and may see these as blended and integrated. This may result in use of work time for personal affairs and use of personal time for work. As a result, they may be more productive working at home or using a flexible schedule.

9.    Provide variety. Young workers typically have a short attention span. They thrive on variety and change and may be your strongest change-agents.  They are usually most productive when working on short-term projects and quick tasks, or longer projects that are broken down into smaller tasks or phases.

10.  Use them for their strengths. They may not be your most perfect assets from the start. They’ll make mistakes and you’ll see the effects of their inexperience over time, but their energy, fresh knowledge, willingness to learn, growth potential, and creativity are all valuable to your organization and likely reasons for which you hired them. Use them with these strengths in mind, and over time with good direction and development, the rest with usually come.

11.  Offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities. Growing research shows that many young people want to be entrepreneurs. To keep their fresh, new, and great ideas inside your organization, allow or offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities – projects or opportunities that allow them to create or be involved in the creation of a new product, service, or start-up scenarios. Use their entrepreneurial spirit for your benefit.

12.  Be or give them a mentor. An experienced mentor can help young employees learn from experiences that they haven’t had and provide an objective sounding board for career discussions and work problems. They can also suggest or help facilitate developmental activities. A mentor could be another individual in the organization (perhaps a top performer), a leader, or the employee’s supervisor. Typically a mentor is 1-2 levels above the employee.

13.  Show them clear, defined career paths. Young employees are focused on advancement. They want to know their career options and work towards a specific career goal. If your organization doesn’t have clear career paths, discuss alternative career and developmental opportunities in the organization and show examples of how other young people have advanced.

14.  Monitor workload. Young workers don’t know what their limits are yet and are eager to take on new projects and responsibilities. They also don’t feel as safe saying no to additional responsibilities because they lack experience. Similarly, keep in mind that young people are not always skilled at managing their time and prioritizing work.

15.  Emphasize professionalism. Young employees may not be educated on the right ways to conduct themselves in a workplace setting. Expect that they may not know the basics like how to lead a conference call, create a meeting agenda, network, manage a project, general business/email etiquette, or more touchy subjects like handling emotions, hygiene, and dress in the workplace.

16.  Choose and monitor work events carefully especially if there is alcohol involved. After-work outings, happy-hour events, and other social gatherings are a great way to attract and engage young employees, but consider limiting alcohol consumption, choosing locations that minimize risk, setting ground rules, and dealing with inappropriate behavior on-the-spot to avoid liabilities.

17.  Differentiate between friends and coworkers. It’s not that friendships in the workplace are bad (in fact, they can be very positive), but young workers have a tendency to view their coworkers as friends more than other employees. These relationships can get too personal and may be inappropriate (i.e. dating relationships), depending on your policies. Plus, when friends start getting promoted and managing one another, these relationships can pose problems.

18.  Explain key policies. Hone in on certain policies with young people such as dress code, attendance, harassment, substance abuse, and social media/internet usage, and specifically what actions are unacceptable in the workplace and the consequences of those behaviors.  What was acceptable in college isn’t always acceptable in the workplace, and some young employees miss these differences.

19.  Provide benefits education. Young workers usually lack knowledge about their benefits – how health and dental insurance works, how much to contribute to their 401K, if they should use a flexible spending account, what an employee assistance program provides, etc. They may also need some help with financial planning such as paying off student loans, saving for a house, budgeting, to name a few. Spend additional time discussing benefits with your younger employees and provide financial planning resources.

20.  Be an example. Young people will emulate who you are. They will view you as a model for their behavior, copying your actions and words. In their first days and months, they are attuned to the norms of workplace behavior and will take on positive and negative behaviors they observe in their work environment. Recognize their malleable nature and use this time to mold them in positive ways.

Additional Resources

 Training for Your Young Professionals

This can’t-miss, two-part series for your organization’s young professionals, covers communication skills, professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, and the traits of a strong leader.

Mid-Level Manager Training

Employers Develop Younger Workers

Cleveland– According to the 2011 ERC/NOCHE Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey, most Northeast Ohio employers invest resources in training, development, and performance management activities for younger workers, particularly new graduates.

The survey shows that over 70% of employers provide new graduates with an orientation during their first week (72%), conduct performance evaluations (71%), and provide regular feedback and coaching (71%). Additionally, more than half of employers provide formal training (56%) and access to a mentor (52%). Fewer (20%) offer management in training programs for new graduates, however.  All of these developmental activities were more commonly offered by non-manufacturers than manufacturers. Similarly, larger organizations tended to be most likely to provide these, although they were still commonly used by small and mid-sized organizations.

Specific training and development opportunities provided to their new graduates as cited by respondents included: on-the-job training, corporate culture training, product/industry/market training, mentoring, shadowing, and targeted leadership development programs.

The results of the survey show that organizations are making investments in training and development for their younger professionals and emerging leaders. These organizations understand the benefits of on-boarding and developing younger employees early in their careers for their businesses and in developing a pipeline of talent.

View the Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey

This survey reports data from Northeast Ohio employers about their internship and recent graduate employment and pay practices.

View the Results

13th Annual Cleveland HR Star Conference

It’s time to register for the 13th annual Cleveland HR Star Conference! The conference takes place on Wednesday, July 20th at the Cleveland Holiday Inn Independence.

This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Bob Nelson, author of the multi-million copy selling "1001 Ways to Reward Employees" as well as "Keeping Up in a Down Economy" and "Ubuntu!" among others. Dr. Nelson has appeared extensively in the national media including CBS 60 Minutes, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, PBS and National Public Radio. In addition, he is a frequent expert resource for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Fortune.

For HR professionals from companies with 100 or more employees, this is still a FREE conference. It is only $98/person if your company has fewer than 100 employees, if your company is a potential exhibitor, or if 4 attendees from your organization have already registered.

ERC is proud to be the Promotional Sponsor for this year’s conference, and our very own Marty Mordarski and Katie Talarico will be presenting “Shoot for the Moon: How the NorthCoast 99 Winners Consistently Land and Keep Top Talent.”

For a complete list of topics and speakers, or to register, visit  Sign up soon – last year’s conference was at capacity within 3 weeks!

ERC partners with CareWorks USA to offer FMLA Administration

ERC has partnered with CareWorks USA, a national leader in FMLA administration and absence management, to offer its members specialized pricing on CareWorks USA’s administrative services. ERC members will receive a five percent discount per employee per month, or $500 off their setup fees.

CareWorks USA’s services are designed to take the day-to-day administration of FMLA off of an organization’s hands and allow them to focus on the core nature and priorities of their business. Their FMLA administration services include:

  • 24/7 absence reporting
  • Employee and worksite education
  • Dedicated leave of absence teams: Experienced Leave Administration Specialists & Nurse Case Managers 
  • 24/7 web-based claim access
  • And many more!

 “FMLA is a hot topic with our members,” said Pat Perry, president of ERC. “The expertise and resources that CareWorks USA brings to the table is going to be a great benefit to our membership.”

About CareWorks USA 

CareWorks USA is one of the nation’s fastest growing providers of FMLA Administration and Absence Management Services. Their outcome based programs are customized to ensure your FMLA and Absence Management programs are administered according to your organization’s values, philosophies and policies. They offer a streamlined, cost effective approach to ensure consistent claims handling and regulatory compliance both on a state and federal level. Through their technologically advanced software and their administrative and medical expertise, CareWorks USA’s Family Medical Leave administration services provide a comprehensive package of services for employers.

ERC Preferred Partner CareWorks provides Absence Management and FMLA Administration. ERC Members save 5% off per EE per month fee or a $500 discount off Initial Set-up Fee

Most Employers Planning to Provide Paid Holiday on Monday

According to the 2011 ERC Paid Holiday Survey, most Northeast Ohio employers (99%) planned to provide their employees with a paid day off on July 4th, 2011 in observance of Independence Day. 

Monday appeared to be the only day that most employers provided off for the upcoming holiday. In the survey, only 4% of employers planned to provide an additional day off on Tuesday, July 5th, and only 3% of employers planned to provide an additional day off on Friday, July 1st. This trend was consistent across manufacturing, non-manufacturing, and non-profit organizations as well as across employers of various sizes. 

The trend in 2011 is clearer than the preceding years, where more employers opted to provide Friday off in addition to or instead of Monday (or vice versa) when July 4th fell on a weekend day.

6 Causes of Employee Problems

Are employee problems festering at your organization or has a good employee “gone bad”?  Recognizing whether certain controllable factors in the workplace are playing a role is key. Here are six (6) common causes of employee problems and ways you can manage these.

1. Stale job responsibilities

One of the major reasons that employees’ performance suffers is lack of self-motivation, which is usually most influenced by the work they do. An employee may become bored or disinterested in their work, especially if they’ve been doing the same job for awhile. To keep their jobs from becoming stale, consider ways to challenge all of your employees and keep their jobs interesting. Involve them on a new project. Create new goals. Cross-train them on a coworker’s responsibilities or give them a new responsibility. Add a new duty to each employee’s job description each year. Make professional development a requirement so that they keep developing new skills. Let them take initiative and lead a new project. We’re often quick to give these opportunities to managers, but extend the same invitation to your non-management staff.

2. Scarce rewards

Many employees are motivated by rewards, but consider whether the rewards you offer are meaningful enough to motivate high performance. For example, do employees feel that they have a good shot at receiving an incentive? If funds for incentives or pay increases are traditionally low and reserved for a small percentage of employees (and typically at the manager or leadership level), employees may believe that the rewards are not worth the extra effort. Additionally, how long has it been since you advanced an employee? Do employees believe that they have the opportunity to advance and develop in your organization? If your organization doesn’t share how people can advance or provide tangible steps and strategies to help your people advance, and makes advancement decisions in a vacuum without any transparency, you may be creating a host of motivational issues. Plus, scarce rewards can lend themselves to other issues like conflict, lack of teamwork, and unhealthy competition.

3. Inadequate training

Sometimes employees just haven’t had the right training or skills to do their job effectively and this gets overlooked in the hiring process. We may find that they don’t know how to do their job or parts of their job. They may have gaps in experience or knowledge that prevent them from performing well, or they may be scared or ashamed to admit that they need guidance to do certain tasks. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest performance problems to fix, because skills are usually trainable or coachable. Your job is to figure out what those gaps are and find ways to close them by recommending and coordinating training, coaching them through issues, and encouraging and making it safe for employees to ask questions if they don’t understand something. Similarly, employees may be in the wrong job for their skill set and need a better fit. Recognize the unique talents of each employee and put them where they will excel, if possible. As often as we work on employees’ weaknesses, it’s important to notice their strengths and how they can add value to our organizations. When employees are using their best skills and abilities, we encounter far fewer performance problems.

4. Not enough resources

Resources don’t just include supplies, equipment, and technology, but also time, people, and money. Lack of resources and increasing demands over an extended period of time can drain the energy and motivation out of your employees, leading to mistakes, errors, and missed deadlines and opportunities. If you suspect that lack of resources are preventing your employees from being successful, invest time in re-evaluating your (and their) priorities, re-distributing workloads, adding staff, and making efforts to ensure that they have all the right resources and support to do their job efficiently.

5. Personal problems

Many workplaces have the philosophy that employees should leave their personal problems at the door, but we all know that they seep into the workplace and affect performance. Child care issues, marital problems, grief and bereavement, illness or injury, and life changes may unavoidably lead to performance and attendance problems for our employees. Our workplace policies and management styles may not allow employees to take the appropriate time to deal with their issues or provide the support that our employees need. If we give our employees the tools and resources to manage their personal lives more flexibly via generous leave, flexible schedules, employee assistance programs, and supportive management, we generally find that employees can better manage their personal life and work results. You can still expect great results and hold employees accountable for high performance while treating them like the adults they are.

6. Missing the basics

Finally, be sure your organization excels at the basics. When the basics are missing, motivation and performance can really suffer. The basics include making sure that employees are treated respectfully, managed well, appreciated, compensated fairly, and provided with appropriate direction and communication. If any of these are lacking, the workplace culture can become a minefield of negative emotions created by employees who feel that they’ve been treated wrongly and undervalued. This undermines your efforts to create a high performance and productive work environment.

When we start exploring the nature and cause of our problems with employees, we usually find that one of these reasons is contributing to the issues and that there are effective ways to manage and fix them without jumping immediately to termination or disciplinary actions. As employers, we need to recognize how our workplaces contribute to problems with our employees and fix those core issues for the betterment of our organizations.

Additional Resources

Learn more about our Supervisory & Leadership Training programs and courses here.

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