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Last updated 6:23AM ET
February 25, 2021
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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Family Medical Leave
(wgvu) - Fourteen years after it was enacted, the federal Family Leave Medical
Act continues to frustrate employers, providing plenty of business to
the legal profession.

One law firm in western Michigan recently even formed an entire practice
group around the Clinton-era law that allows employees to take off up to
12 weeks unpaid.

With virtually every corporate client voicing frustrations with FMLA,
Miller Johnson decided to assemble a team of lawyers with expertise in
the law and give them a formalized structure as a practice group.

Despite the time that the FMLA has been in effect, many employers say it
has become increasingly complicated to understand, said Sarah Willey, an
employment and labor-law lawyer in Miller Johnson's Kalamazoo office and
part of the firm's new FMLA Solutions group.

Many employers often grant leave to employees who are ineligible,
fearing litigation if they deny a request, Willey said.
A general lack of understanding provided the catalyst to form the FMLA
Solutions practice group, Willey said.

The problem is employers have such a hard time with it, they can be
overly conservative and they don't exercise the rights that they have.
There's a great fear of making a mistake, Willey said.

Enacted in 1993, the FMLA requires employers with more than 50 employees
to grant unpaid leave to workers for up to 12 weeks during a 12-month
period for:
The birth and care of the newborn child
Adopting a child
To care for an immediate family member spouse, child, or parent
with a serious medical condition
When the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

While it may sound simple, the law has evolved over the years to where a
growing number of employees qualify for intermittent leave under FMLA
taking time off for short periods, such as to drive a sick relative to
a medical appointment on a certain day of the week.

Most employers' concerns about the FMLA stem from tracking and
documenting compliance and determining what constitutes an eligible
leave, said David Smith, executive director of the Employers'
Association in Grand Rapids.

The Employers' Association hears constantly from employers frustrated
with the law and typically refers them to legal counsel for assistance,
he said.

Application of the law is just so stretched, Smith said.

Willey has some clients where as many as 30 percent of the work force
qualified for intermittent leave under FMLA, hindering their ability to
set work and production schedules.
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