Changes to the FMLA are on the horizon

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a notification that its regulatory agenda will include a request for information (RFI) to solicit comments to improve the FMLA regulations in two ways:

  1. Better protect workers; and
  2. Reduce employers’ FMLA compliance and administrative burdens.

The DOL is expected to issue the RFI by April 2020, which seems far away, but that gives all of us in the leave of absence industry plenty of time to compile our thoughts and wish list for FMLA improvements. This is a unique opportunity – a pre-regulatory invitation to provide input on possible regulatory changes.

Some of us have been dreaming of FMLA changes for quite some time. In fact, we tend to discuss it amongst our cohort of leave of absence nerds. For instance, Jeff Nowak, attorney at Littler, compiled just such a wish list a little over a year ago when we were celebrating the FMLA’s 25th birthday, and I provided Jeff with what I think is the very first change that the FMLA regulations must address – late FMLA paperwork.

I could definitely add to Jeff’s compiled list, and in fact I addressed FMLA regulatory gaps just a few weeks ago at the Disability Management Employer Coalition 2019 FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference with Janet Lee, Counsel at Cigna , where we discussed FMLA areas lacking in clear guidance, such as:

  • eligibility coverage for employees who work abroad;
  • annual employee eligibility check;
  • entitlement using a rolling back leave year method;
  • FMLA coverage for pre-operative visits; and
  • Second and third opinion process.

So, while we wait for the U.S. DOL to issue the formal RFI, many of us will have no problem compiling our list of recommended FMLA regulatory clarifications. Having worked in this industry for quite some time, I don’t foresee a total overhaul of the regulations, but I am cautiously optimistic about the DOL’s willingness to consider improvements to this complex law.

FINEOS Absence can help with the administration of leave of absence, simplifying the complexity, and automating processes around both paid and unpaid absences. We have lots of resources available on our website including webinars, datasheets and other blog posts. For more information, please visit

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