California employers are currently scratching their heads over how to interpret “suitable seating” that is required under California Wage Orders. Nancy Cooper, member of our Labor and Employment Group and Hospitality, Travel and Tourism practice team, discusses how that term is defined will affect your business. Thank you for today’s post, Nancy! - Greg
Just when it seems that businesses spend more time ensuring employment law compliance than they do on actual business, the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced they intend to increase the frequency of their FMLA audits while also increasing the number of site visits during these audits. What, you may ask, is a FMLA audit and why should I care?
For employers who qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) (over 50 employees within a 75 mile radius) the required paperwork is an administrative process and the tracking is done by the Human Resources Department. It is a formality that also provides certain job protections, but it really isn’t that big a deal once the processes are in place. Right? The short answer is, no. The FMLA is form driven and form dependant – but it takes more than the forms to make sure you are complying with the law. Audits of an employer’s FMLA practices are not something new – at least in theory. The DOL has always had the right to conduct audits, but it is not a right often exercised. It has not been unusual to see the EEOC investigating employee claims under the FMLA, but rarely has the DOL investigated. That is about to change.
DOL Branch Chief for FMLA, Diane Dawson, recently announced that the DOL’s national office has instructed the regional offices to identify occasions when an audit would include an on-site visit. These visits could be announced or unannounced. The investigations may be triggered by an employee complaint they were not given all their rights under the FMLA, that they were about to lose their job (or had recently lost their job) due to exercising their rights under the FMLA, or because DOL is seeing a pattern of FMLA issues within the target company. Violating the FMLA can be costly. The employee can sue you and the government can fine you. The DOL is opting to increase the on-site investigations because the actual visit can reduce the time an audit may take. The investigators have ready access to the records, policies and files. More importantly, they have ready access to the employees for a face-to-face discussion while reviewing the forms.
So, what can an employer do to prepare? First and foremost, an employer should be proactive and review their current processes and forms. The DOL forms were updated recently and all employers should be using the updated forms. The current poster should also be placed in the appropriate locations. It is important to note that the poster must be able to be seen by both employees and applicants.
One of the most important things to do is to review (or develop) your FMLA policy. The DOL will start with a review of the policy (and the forms) to ensure the March 2013 regulations are incorporated. So, make sure your policy is up to date. At a minimum, the policy must incorporate issues such as the leave year calculation (calendar, rolling backward, rolling forward), eligibility requirements for leave, the reasons for leave, your call-in procedures, substitution of paid leave, the employee’s obligations in the FMLA process, medical certification process, explanation of intermittent leave and that the employee is responsible for telling you when an absence is covered under approved intermittent leave, benefit rights under leave, fitness for duty requirements and any outside work during FMLA prohibitions.
In this week’s “late due to Snowmageddon II” post, Diana Shukis, a partner in our Employment law practice group and long-time member of our Hospitality team, discusses the basic elements necessary to minimize your organization’s risk of harassment in the workplace, including a step-by-step approach to avoiding, and what to do in the event it occurs. Of course, the easiest way to ensure you have all the training and assistance you need is to give Diana a call.
Workplace harassment continues to be a serious concern because of its negative business impacts and serious liability risks for employers in all industries, including those in the hospitality community. It is vital for hotel managers and human resources professionals to review their organizations’ policies and practices regarding harassment and make any necessary improvements to avoid negative impacts. Workplace harassment based on race, ethnicity, disability or the perception of disability, sex, sexual orientation (in Washington and some other states), religion or age is prohibited by law.
Mike Brunet is an associate working closely with Diana Shukis in our Labor, Employment & Immigration group. Both Mike and Diana do a lot of work with our hospitality clients in the areas of personnel and management issues - from creating and implementing comprehensive policies and procedures to providing key, timely advice during volatile workplace situations. Today, Mike tackles the hot topic of employee social networking, from an employer’s perspective:
Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.