In the season of Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day it’s natural to think about family. It’s also a good time to think again about the Idaho FMLA law. The Idaho Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is designed to help you when you need to turn your focus away from work for a while and direct your attention to the needs of your loved ones.
The Idaho FMLA is there for the times when family lives are under stress – either good stress or bad – and need full attention. It provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for circumstances like these:
The birth or adoption of a child.
Bringing a foster child into your home.
When a member of your immediate family has a serious health problem.
All private employers with 50 or more workers must abide by the Idaho FMLA law. Public employees and schoolteachers are covered despite staff size. It’s important to remember that under the USERRA, time on active military duty counts towards hours worked to qualify for FMLA.
There are some responsibilities that must be fulfilled by you or your employer if you’re using, or plan to make use of, the FMLA. For example, your employer should provide immediate notice in writing to you explaining the status of your leave and letting you know how and when to keep in touch with your place of business in so you can be certain of maintaining your position. In turn, you’re obliged to respond to those written instructions to stay in good stead with your employer.
If you’re on unpaid leave and have medical coverage deducted from your paychecks, your employer can continue your deductions to make sure your coverage remains active. However, that will cost you later. Those deductions while you’re on leave and not receiving your wage or salary must be paid for somehow. The employer will consider those deductions as advances against future paychecks. The money will then come out of future earnings. Your and your employer should sign a written agreement making this arrangement clear.
The Idaho FMLA poster needs to be displayed at all jobsites throughout the state.
If you are an employer that provides health insurance plan cover for your workers, you need to make yourself aware of the implications of the recent ruling by the Employee Benefits Security Administration. This ruling will affect over 150 million workers throughout the US, so it is advisable to ensure that you understand what it means to you as an employer.
The Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) has been extended through December 31, 2007. This is after 5 amendments, which extended the original expiration date of September 31, 2001. The original bill was signed into law in 1996.
The ruling, which will have significant effects on Idaho employee benefit plans, means that if you, as an employer, offer your workers a group health insurance plan, it must cover mental and medical health equally.
However, this only applies to group health insurance plans that cover both medical and mental health. If both are not covered in the plan then it does not apply to that plan.
If, as is most common, both medical and mental health is covered in the plan, it means that, under the MHPA, it is now illegal to cover medical health up to $250,000 and mental health cover to be capped at $15,000.
The types of mental health conditions that your workers may suffer from, and are included include stays in rehab for alcohol and drug dependency, hospital admission for various mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and depression, as well as visits to a psychiatrist or psychologist as well as seeking treatment from a licensed therapist.
The MHPA also applies to annual or lifetime caps on the benefit amount.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration is the federal agency responsible for making sure that the MHPA is adhered to. It is the employers responsibility to ensure that the health plan they offer complies to the recent ruling and that they and their workers understand the implications.
Here’s an item from the “crime doesn’t pay” file. A 37-year-old Heyburn man was placed on five years probation and ordered to repay over $15,000 in illegally claimed unemployment insurance benefits and penalties.
While your average criminal might be tempted to rob a bank, counterfeit $1,000 bills or plan a huge jewelry heist, this suspect decided that it was easier to apply for unemployment, even if he happened to be earning more than $80,000 per year at the time.
The man pleaded guilty to grand theft in late August. Under the sentence imposed by 5th District Judge Barry Wood, he will serve 4 to 14 years in prison if he fails to successfully complete probation and repay the benefits and penalties.
Between November 2002 and March 2003, the man claimed unemployment benefits even though he was working as a truck driver and was paid nearly $27,000. That works out to more than $81,000 per year.
In Idaho, unemployment benefits are paid from a trust fund financed with taxes paid by Idaho’s nearly 50,000 employers.
In 2005 Idaho Commerce & Labor’s unemployment insurance division uncovered nearly $2.5 million in unemployment insurance fraud and during the year recovered more than $3.9 million from fraud and overpayments. In addition to prosecution, stricter financial penalties for fraud were approved by the Idaho Legislature and went into effect July 1.
To track down potential fraud, the division has beefed up its team of investigators and installed a new automated computer system that quickly cross-references and checks the information it receives from claimants, such as verifying earnings.
Under state law, it is a felony for a person to obtain unemployment insurance benefits based upon a knowing misrepresentation or omission, such as misreporting earnings while claiming unemployment insurance benefits. Persons reporting suspected fraud will remain anonymous if they request it.
Such is also the case in the state of Idaho. As with most state systems for unemployment insurance that we’ve looked at, and will continue to look at, the state of Idaho’s system is based on accurate info that only the employer could have. The point—keep track of all of your human resource forms and personnel files is of utmost importance when it comes to keep on the right side of the labor laws in the state.
For instance, in the state of Idaho, the Department of Labor contacts the last employer on the unemployed worker’s form when that person make a claim for unemployment insurance. So if a so called claimant puts you down as their last employer—basically, the employer who laid them off or let them go through no fault of their own—the Idaho Department of Labor will contact you and tell you that the person is asking for unemployment insurance. The state authorities will also let you know what the former employee put down as the reason that they got let go.
That leaves you, the employer, to have to know offhand who that employee was, and why they got let go. In many cases, if you are an employer with many employees, you may never have known that former employee personally. And even if you did, you may not know that they were let go and why. In that case, personnel records can come in mighty handy.
The Idaho Department of Labor expects a prompt reply when they get in touch with you in those circumstances. They especially want a prompt reply if the claimant’s facts aren’t facts at all but fabrications. And employers, you will want to let the state know if you weren’t that person’s last employer—or if you fired them. Remember, each former employee you have collecting unemployment benefits makes your taxes higher the next year.
Employees who become involuntarily unemployed in Idaho are compensated for lost wages by the Employment Security Law. The law is made possible by the Security Trust fund, an employer, tax-funded program. I read that employees should not have to pay for this program.
Claims for unemployment must be filed immediately after a worker is let go. Employees are eligible for compensation if they are totally or partially unemployed through no fault of their own, and are US citizens or legally authorized to work in the US.
The amount a worker receives for unemployment is based upon their past earnings. The current range for unemployment weekly benefits runs from $51.00 per week minimum to $322.00 per week maximum. Workers are entitled to from 10 – 26 weeks of benefits.
During the unemployment period, a worker must actively seek, be available for, and be able to perform full-time work. Pregnant claimants are eligible for benefits according to the same rules that apply to all other claimants. As long as it does not affect looking for work, an employee can attend school or training and still receive benefits.
I know that the reasons for denying coverage to employees include:
- Quitting a job without good cause connected to the job. For good cause to be attributable to the employment, it must relate to the wages, hours, or working conditions of the job. Regardless of the cause, an employee must take reasonable steps to inform the employer of their dissatisfaction and seek to remedy the problem before they leave.
- Being fired from a job because of employment related misconduct.
- Refusing without good cause to take a job for which the employee is qualified and which pays the prevailing wage for that kind of work in the locality.
- Taking part in a strike, lockout or other industrial controversy
- Being unable, ready, or willing to work, are not prepared to take a job immediately, or are not physically or mentally capable of employment
- Applying for coverage during a vacation or holiday break if the worker is employed by an educational institution.
Employers must post a notice of the Idaho State Unemployment Law in a public place at their business. The Idaho Complete Labor Law poster reflects all the labor laws for both federal and state.