Employers Group Blog Connection

Make No Assumptions

Posted by Nicole Vierzba on Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Labor and employment laws and regulations can be exceedingly complex. The impulse is to learn the general rule for a particular statute and apply it across the board in all cases. As many laws as there are impacting the Human Resources profession, learning the general rule for each statute can be a challenge in and of itself. The problem, of course, is that exceptions to the rule can sometimes obscure the rule itself. No one should expect that they should learn every rule and its exceptions for every statute and regulation they may encounter in the HR profession. But every HR professional should at least know exceptions exist and, further, where to go in the laws or regulations to flesh them out.

Take, for example, family and medical leave in California. HR professionals generally know the primary federal law is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and the state law mirroring its federal counterpart is the California Family Rights Act. Moreover, both statutes cover employers with 50 or more employees. Don’t assume, however, that as soon as you drop below 50 employees, it no longer applies to you. Employers remain covered if they have had 50 or more employees for 20 or more calendar workweeks this or the previous calendar year. In other words, if you’ve recently had a reduction in force, don’t think you can abolish the FMLA policy from your handbook just yet. The same goes for employees under the Act. The law requires that for employees to be eligible, they must work at a site with 50 or more employees within 75 miles. If this is the extent to which you bother learning the rule, however, you may deny employees their rights under the Act. What happens with a telecommuter who works from home more than 75 miles from any office location? The FMLA regulations actually state that in such situations, the home office is irrelevant; rather, look to the office to which the employee reports or from which work is assigned. If that location has 50 or more employees, the employee is covered.

Though state and federal laws and regulations are readily available on the Internet, as are most opinion letters and enforcement manuals, navigating them can require a familiarity beyond what you could obtain from a quick skim of relevant statutes or regulations. The Helpline is always available to help you locate relevant guidance and provide suggestions on how to tackle your own read of the fine print in a relevant statute or regulation.

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Article by Mark Nelson, J.D., Senior Helpline Consultant

Topics: employment law, human resources, labor, best practices