It’s important for Nevada employers to be aware of changes to the FMLA regulations.
On April 11, 2008, employers will face several changes due to new FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations.
The U. S. Department of Labor proposed these changes on February 11, 2008. Until the changes go into effect employers have a chance to review them and to make comments.
To post comments, employers can simply click this link and type in the keywords “Family and Medical Leave Act” (complete with quotes). Employers should understand, however, that their comments will be viewable by the public.
The use of paid time off (PTO) while on FMLA leave is one of the major changes detailed among the new regulations. FMLA leave is unpaid leave, and employers are required only to provide up to 12 weeks and protect the employee’s job. To continue receiving paychecks, a worker can currently use accrued sick time while on FMLA leave.
The new regulations will allow employees to use accrued sick time, accrued vacation time and accrued personal leave.
For instance, Bob requires heart surgery and will take 12 weeks of FMLA leave for surgery and recovery. His accrued PTO comes to 5 weeks of vacation, 3 weeks of personal and 2 weeks of sick leave. Under the new regulations, he can use all 10 weeks of his PTO while on FMLA leave. The remaining two weeks will be unpaid leave. Bob has effectively substituted paid leave for FMLA leave, which is termed “substitution of paid leave.”
Prior to the new regulations, Bob could only use the accrued sick leave, and would then be on unpaid FMLA leave for the remainder of his time off.
The new regulations will also change how FMLA leave is charged to employee absences. Currently, a worker on FMLA isn’t considered “absent”. Employers and coworkers complained about this policy, because workers who’d been gone for 12 weeks were receiving “perfect attendance” awards, including bonuses.
The new regulations state that FMLA leave will be counted toward a worker’s absences just like any other leave. Employees who take FMLA, then, will no longer be eligible for attendance awards.
More Nevada FMLA Changes
Victoria Lipnic of the U.S. Department of Labor recently commented on the proposed changes to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). “It’s time to update these regulations — to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren’t contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995.”
The Labor Department proposed several changes on February 11, 2008, including the definition of how often an employee on FMLA needs to see a healthcare provider, permission for employers to disqualify employees on FMLA from “Perfect Attendance Awards” and amendments to the medical certification process.
These proposed changes are scheduled to go into effect on April 11, 2008. Until that time, employers have the opportunity to review and comment on the changes.
Ms. Lipnic described the new proposal. “This proposal is the result of a thoughtful, careful process that included a Request for Information with 15,000 public comments in 2006, many conversations with stakeholders, and the department’s experience in administering and enforcing the law.”
In addition to the amendments listed, several changes target the issue of “serious medical condition” and how that condition is certified by medical personnel.
FMLA allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12 month period to care for themselves or for a parent, child or spouse with a “serious medical condition.” To prevent abuse of the leave, the U. S. Department of Labor permits companies to require the worker’s healthcare professional to certify the “serious medical condition”.
In the new regulations, six of the definitions of “serious medical condition” have been retained. Two terms have received further clarification.
For instance, one definition of “serious medical condition” requires the worker to be incapacitated for three consecutive calendar days and visit the healthcare provider twice. Yet, no parameters were defined for those two visits. Did they need to be two visits per week, per month, or even per year?
The U.S. Department of Labor in the new regulations will amend the rule to require the two visits to occur within 30 days of the period of incapacity.
Do you have questions about how the Nevada Drug Free Workplace Alliance can help employers in the battle against alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace? OSHA has the answers.
What is the Nevada Drug Free Workplace Alliance?
This alliance consists of OSHA along with union and contractor organizations. The focus is to help protect employees from the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.
Is abuse a big problem in the workplace?
Abuse problems cost American businesses in several ways. Employees may miss more work, causing a high rate of absenteeism. They also may make more errors and have more accidents. Abuse problems also may impact employee morale, which may be low. Also, workplace automobile accidents that result in fatalities are often caused by either drug or alcohol abuse. OSHA feels that abuse problems are a preventable workplace hazard.
What does OSHA recommend that employers do to combat this problem?
To create a comprehensive plan for creating a workforce that is drug-free, employers should take five steps. First, they should develop a policy concerning abuse issues in their workplace. Next, they need to train all supervisors on the problem and the policy. This step is followed by training and educating employees about the dangers alcohol and drug abuse pose. Employers also need to offer assistance to employees who do experience abuse problems. Finally, employers need to perform drug testing. Of course, the privacy rights of employees should be considered when employers have drug testing as part of their program.
Do employers have to create a drug-free workplace?
No, it is not required, but employers can improve the health and safety of their employees by doing so. Although this program is good to have in all businesses, OSHA urges workplaces that utilize machinery where impairment issues could lead to injuries to create a drug-free workplace environment. By doing so, employers can do a great deal to help protect their employees.
Veterans and members of the Army, Navy or Air Force Reserve, have the right to return to their civilian jobs. The term to come back is 5 years and is cumulative. A member that served for 3 years has 2 more years to return to her or his work. For those that need assistance with claims under the rights stated by law, they can turn to the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), within the US Department of Labor.
New regulations were approved by the Department of Labor related to Nevada USERRA that added clarity to the enforcement of the law. USERRA means Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and is a law approved in 1994 to protect the civilian jobs of the soldiers who serve in the military. Under the new regulations, the federal government employees were included in the list of those entitled to receive help of the Department of Labor in issues related to the USERRA.
The new regulations clarify some cases related to the 5 years limit of coverage of the job. If the soldier last more than the 5-year in the service, he or she keep the rights to return to his or her civilian job. The time of training on the National Guard or Defense, is not consider under the 5-year total. If the soldier is eligible to keep his or her job protected, other criteria like frequency, duration, timing of each soldier services are secondary.
The regulations require that the employees who served in the military and return to their civilians jobs, they have the right to maintain their positions, salaries and benefits. In many circumstances, the soldiers are also eligible to adjustments to cost-of-living or annual salary increases. In a number of test cases, the time of military service of the soldiers was considered as time worked and therefore the employees received promotions.
The Nevada OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants all employees to be careful when using powered industrial trucks (PIT), also called fork lifts. A current publication on safety highlights the hazards involved in PIT use, particularly if regulations are not followed.
Each year, PITs cause a number of severe injuries, some fatal, among operators. A wide variety of industries rely on PIT use to move large quantities of products and goods. Manufacturers in particular make good use of these machines. They are, in fact, a very useful and large tool, and it is important that they are used properly. That is why the OSHA warns that regulations should be followed in operating them.
According to a recent Nevada worker safety alert, it is crucial to understand how to balance a load on a forklift. The load center of gravity is important in the stability of the truck, even if a load is well under maximum capacity. A load on a PIT that has the proper center of gravity has the following characteristics:
Evenly distributed weight between the forks
The load is under maximum capacity (considering modifications)
The load is not too far forward
The center of gravity is no more than 24” higher than the forks (average sized PIT)
The center of gravity is no more than 24” from the base of the forks (average sized PIT)
Every powered industrial truck should have the maximum capacity marked on a data plate. Larger PITs may allow for the center of gravity to be 36” or even 48” from the height or base of the forks.
The following are common extensions that might be added to a PIT. Approval is necessary to add these attachments. All modifications should be requested of the manufacturer or a Registered Professional Engineer (RPE).
Remember that all such modifications should be indicated on the PIT, as it affects the safety rating and maximum capacity.
According to a recently released report, Nevada worker safety numbers show that 503,530 workers suffered tears, strains, or sprains. Painful back injuries accounted for 270,890 accidents in 2005. And 255,750 people fell in their places of employment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors Nevada’s workplace safety issues.
Nevada worker safety is endangered by on-the-job accidents. The chilling workplace statistics represent only the private sector. They do not include numbers for jobs in the non-profit arena, or in public jobs, including high-risk professions like firefighting, law enforcement, and paramedical work.
Education is the key to developing a solid workplace safety plan. And a workplace safety plan can be a matter of life and death.
The cost is high for both workers and for their employers. As the figures show, workplace accidents, besides being tragic, can end in lost pay, high-priced medical care, and lawsuits, to name a few problems.
Some of the common causes of workplace accidents are slips, trips, and falls. Although they’re usually not seen as dangerous, they’re the second most frequent causes of death in the workplace, following only after driving accidents. Falls at work resulted in 732 deaths in 2005. Accidents while driving on the job left 1,258 people dead.
OSHA, in charge of monitoring Nevada’s workplace safety, has developed what it calls the Workplace Safety Pack. The goal of the Safety Pack is to help make safety information available to employers and employees alike in a clear, easy to understand format. That’s because OSHA believes education is the key to a workplace safety plan. It recommends pointing out to employees the importance of taking safe steps and telling them just what those proper safety steps should be.
A good program would remind employees of the need for workplace safety. And it would teach them all the necessary safety measures.