Unlike wage-and-hour investigations, the DOL’s on-site presence at employers’ facilities has been virtually non-existent when FMLA issues are raised. But it looks like that’s all about to change.
Diane Dawson, the DOL branch chief for FMLA, recently spoke at an FMLA/ADA compliance conference hosted by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC).
Dawson’s presentation at the conference was aimed at clarifying the DOL’s investigation process for FMLA issues — and helping organization’s understand what is expected of them.
However, something else Dawson said made headlines in the HR and Benefits world.
‘Increase the frequency … on-site’
During her presentation, Dawson announced “The DOL expects to increase the frequency in which it comes on-site during an FMLA investigation.”
Even though the agency has always had the right to conduct both announced or unannounced on-site visits during FMLA investigations, the tactic was very rarely employed — until now.
With its announcement, the DOL will be following in the footsteps of the EEOC — as that agency has noticeable increased its on-site visits in recent years.
Regional offices to identify examples
So what’s likely to prompt an on-site visit during an FMLA investigation?
Dawson gave some insight into this at the conference when she said that the DOL’s national office has instructed its regional offices to determine some examples of when it would “make sense” for the agency to conduct on-site visits.
- An organization has been hit with a number of recent FMLA violations, or
- A quick remedy is sought for a worker whose termination is about to happen — or has recently occurred.
In addition to describing why it makes sense for the DOL to make these visits, Dawson also listed a number of reasons this strategy will help with the investigation process, such as:
- On-site investigations should be less time-consuming (i.e., less costly) for the agency
- On-site investigators will have ready access to records, data, FMLA policies and forms, and
- Investigators can interview workers face-to-face while reviewing company documents right there on the employer’s premises.
How can employers safeguard themselves in the event the DOL comes knocking? Like anything else, an in-house audit can prove invaluable for employers. To help, employment attorney Jeff Nowak — of the employment law blog FMLA Insights — has listed the seven things every employer’s self-audit should include.