Show Notes: Episode 85 – Tackling Turnover
March 9, 2020
Show Notes: Episode 86 – SHRM Credit: FMLA – A Practical Approach to Leave Management
March 16, 2020

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

JoDee 0:10
Welcome to the JoyPowered Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm. With me is my cohost and friend, Susan White, a national HR consultant. Our topic today is discussing a practical approach to leave management.

Susan 0:32
I love the practical part of that.

JoDee 0:34
Yeah. By the way, we’ve had requests for this topic for a long time, so we’re finally meeting some demands of our listeners. But let’s start off by defining the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. By the way, we did say practical so we won’t get into all of that, but for sure, most people call it FMLA. It is the United States labor law requiring covered employees to provide employees with job protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. The FMLA is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period to care for a new child, a seriously ill family member, or recover from a serious illness themselves. The FMLA covers both public and private sector employees but certain categories of employees, including elected officials, and highly compensated employees are excluded from the law. In order to be eligible, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1250 hours over those past 12 months, and work for an employer with at least 50 employees. Several states have now passed laws providing additional family and medical leave protection for workers. And this is a really hot topic in many states.

Susan 2:09
So be sure and check with your state regs before you add effect your policy. Yes,

JoDee 2:14
the Congress passed the act with the understanding that it is important for the development of children and their family unit that fathers and mothers be able to participate and early development of the child, and the lack of employment policies to accommodate working parents can force individuals to choose between job security and parenting. Employees must give notice of 30 days to employers if birth or adoption is foreseeable, and for serious health conditions, if practical treatments should be arranged so as not to disrupt unduly the operations of the employer according to medical advice. So this is at a really high level, without getting into all the details, of which most government regulations have lots of details, but it really doesn’t seem all that complicated at a high level, right? You have a baby, you take 12 weeks off and you come back to work with a guaranteed position. Yet the SHRM Knowledge Center, a help desk benefit for all SHRM members, have for years said that their number one most asked about topic is FMLA. It’s confusing. It’s complicated, and it is so important to get this right. So that’s why Susan and I also needed an expert to help us talk about it.

Susan 3:44
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JoDee 4:23
Our expert today is Laura North. Laura joined the Purple Ink team in 2016. After gaining over 10 years of experience in the healthcare and insurance sectors. She held a high level claims position for United Parcel Service handling, family medical leave, and workers compensation. In addition to benefits, she is experienced with recruiting, onboarding, new hire training, payroll and employee relations. Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University with a minor in Business, and she is a SHRM certified professional and a member of SHRM. Laura serves our Purple Ink team in several capacities, but she handles all questions regarding FMLA and provides outsourced FMLA services.

Susan 5:16
Welcome, Laura.

Laura 5:18
Thank you.

JoDee 5:19
So, Laura, if our listeners are responsible for leave management, what are some recommendations to them to stay on top of the requests?

Susan 5:28
That’s a really good question, and I can think of several different things that might be helpful. Know the timeline, based on the guidance provided under the law, act quickly and communicate, and sometimes over-communicate. And when I talk about or think about the timeline, I kind of broke it up and want to talk a little bit about that. So number one, they need to provide education and notices and so under FMLA covered employers are required to post a general notice of FMLA provisions for employees and applicants. In addition, if they’re eligible employees, the covered employers are required to distribute a general notice to employees. So this notice is typically in an employee handbook, a procedure manual or a new hire paperwork, or posted on the organization’s intranet. And so that first piece of the timeline helps employees, managers, everyone know that FMLA is a benefit offered by that organization. Second piece, they need to respond to an FMLA request and do that timely. And we’ll talk probably a little bit more about how to identify if someone needs a request. But, you know, sometimes an employer may learn of a request for FMLA leave when the employee submits a request. That’s a really good indicator.

I got that one.

Laura 6:47
Yeah, but also, it might be that they didn’t expressly give notice, but the employer needs to recognize that as such, and so at that point, that kind of as an automatic to also give the paperwork.

Susan 7:00
Can you give us an example of when would you need to interpret their need for it, even if they haven’t asked for it?

Laura 7:06
Right. A couple great examples are if someone’s been hospitalized, that’s a good indication.

Susan 7:12
For any reason.

Laura 7:13
You don’t really even have to know the reason, but if there’s been a hospitalization, if someone’s been out three or more days, and again, you don’t know, if you overhear someone, just you know, struggling and I always say err on the side of offering and making sure that you can be the one that will determine if it’s eligible – if they are eligible, or if it’ll be approved or not, but extending the offer initially, and so once you determine that they may or may not be eligible, you can tell them that they’re eligible. And at that point is when they you give them a notice that says that you’re eligible, but then you give them medical certification to get completed. And being eligible, I think JoDee mentioned previously is that they have to be employed by that employer for at least 12 months, they meet that 1250 hours requirement, and then also that the employer has 50 or more employees. So that allows you to say, okay, you’re eligible. So let me get you the appropriate paperwork and you need to give them that notice to tell them that and that can start the process.

JoDee 8:17
Eligible, not approval.

Laura 8:19
Correct. Right. Right.

JoDee 8:21
Good distinction.

Laura 8:22
And I think one important recommendation and in trying to stay, like you said, and kind of being responsible, and on top of it is that if the employee doesn’t meet the three criteria, or doesn’t meet one of the criteria, it is really up to the employer to notify the employee of the ineligibility of FMLA, specifying at least one of the reasons why they’re not eligible. An example might be an employee who’s been at work for six months, finds out that they need to have a surgery and are going to be off work a couple weeks, but they haven’t met that 12 month requirement. So I always recommend to have that conversation. The employer to then provide them the notice that they’re ineligible, and that would spark then a conversation about does the company have an administrative leave policy or any other policy for those employees that have been there less than a year.

Susan 9:13
It sort of makes you feel like you’re kicking them when they’re down to give them… we had to give a written notice, you should give them a written notice saying you’re ineligible.

Laura 9:19
Yeah, I would highly recommend that because then you never know what what may come up out of that. And then you’ve got documentation that you’ve told them that, you know, FMLA is not an option. And that doesn’t mean, you know, that doesn’t terminate their employment or do anything like that, just notifies them that FMLA is not eligible. Kind of phase three here would be to determine their certification needs. So once you give them that notice of their rights and responsibilities, telling them that they’re eligible then becomes the medical certification. And once you give that medical certification to an employee, they do have 15 calendar days to get it filled out. And sometimes that can be unfortunately after the fact, somebody might have an emergent hospitalization. And so then they might still be in the hospital, they may already be home, but still off work, but you still need to give them the 15 days. But also anybody that has a scheduled procedure, you do try to give them the paperwork at, you know, at least 30 days ahead of time. So they have it back and gives you two weeks to kind of give them the response when they need to be off work. So you do have to give them 15 calendar days, even if the events already happened. Once that medical certification is returned, then you need to decide to approve or deny it and you have five days business days to approve or deny request as well. I would say if that request is coming across your desk, try to act as quickly as possible as you can because they’ve probably worked hard to get those forms to their physician back to you. They need to know kind of what’s going on there. I would say try to turn it around in a day or two if you can’t, but you do have to five days.

Susan 11:00
And if you’re the HR professional receiving this, I’m assuming that we don’t know what the medical condition, is we just have a doctor saying the person is going to be out for a period of time, or do they ever include medical data that we as the employer don’t want to know?

Laura 11:14
There could be information in there more than likely they’re telling you the duration of the treatment that they might need, but it should give you a frequency and duration. And that’s really what you’re looking, you know, looking for – to give the manager that information of that time that they may be away from work, you’re not giving them any of the medical information.

Susan 11:31
And so we as the HR person might just need to hold that near and dear and look it up and wish we didn’t know it.

Laura 11:36

Susan 11:36
Yeah, fair enough.

Laura 11:37
I think that sums up so again, you’re either going to deny… and some instances you might pend because you just need some more information. And then you do need to give them additional time to get that back to you. And then I think one point I made just at the beginning about communication. Sometimes again, you’re sending forms back and forth but it’s a lot of times best to just pick up the phone. Have the conversation, walk them through the process for them to understand that it is, you know, a benefit to them to make sure that they’ve got other steps. And I think we’ll talk a little bit more about that as well.

JoDee 12:10
Yeah, as I said earlier, it can be a complicated process for everyone, right for the HR professional for the person going through it for their family, for the physicians. And so as much as we can help people walk through the process, so that everyone is on the same page as good. And Laura, I think so many times people think of… leaders, managers think of this as “Oh, FMLA. It’s complicated. That’s an HR thing. So I’ll just turn it over to HR,” but what kind of training do managers need to assist with the process?

Laura 12:47
Right, and that’s a great question. And I think employers and organizations should be training their managers, supervisors, and it doesn’t have to be just that whole process of FMLA I’ve just talked about that timeline at all, it has to be more about when, where, how my employees can request FMLA and letting them know that it’s available. And how to identify it. So if an employee discloses one of the eligibility conditions – pregnancy, a medical condition, that should be kind of a red flag to our managers to say, okay, you don’t have to, you can stop there. I don’t need to know any more information. But, you know, go talk to HR. We talked about before an emergency occurs a hospitalization, even if an another employee learns of a condition and discloses it to a supervisor. That should again, make them question and just confront the employee to say, you know, I heard you might need some time away from work, if that’s the case. And again, an absence of three days in a row or more. So any of these I would always educate the managers on that is you don’t, again, have to go into, you know the details with them. And they might want to, you know, be clear about that with the employee, but that they, they should explore the possibility that they might be eligible for leave now, again, that’s gonna start them, well, are they eligible? Or are they not eligible, and the manager doesn’t have to figure out all of those pieces and give them the paperwork or do any of that they just need to make sure that they’re aware that it’s available. And I would always err, and JoDee just mentioned this on on the side of approaching, approaching it and not walking away, because a lot of times and what you’ll find in maybe absentee issues or people not showing up for work, a lot of times it’ll trail back, and it could have been something that would have been filed, you know, are covered under FMLA. But the question wasn’t asked, or even a manager was like, I didn’t want to mention it, you’ll hear that and you’ll like, you know, no, you should stop right away and make sure we don’t get down that rabbit hole before. It’s kind of too late to get out of that. So approaching it, determining the eligibility, you know, if it’s not covered, and it’s not something and then you can potentially go down another road of, you know, disciplinary action or performance, you know, performance or attendance of that if that’s the case, but if someone says, you know, I need time off for my daughter’s surgery, tell them just contact HR, you know, like anything where sometimes you’re like, Okay, I’ll put in your PTO. Like, sometimes it’s just doesn’t even cross the mind.

Susan 15:28
I think for someone’s own medical condition, when the boss hears that, I think it does trigger “Oh, my gosh, you know, what do we do here for people who have, you know, cancer or have a heart attack or have surgery,” but I think when people mention, you know, my husband’s going to go through this, my daughter is going to go through this. I don’t think managers naturally think you know, what, that’s what Family Medical Leave’s about, there’s the family piece of the FMLA. Right. So I think it’s good to make sure part of your manager awareness that they understand who’s eligible, what we have here, what are the benefits when bad things happened to you or your loved ones? Yeah, good. So sometimes when you approach an employee that you have reason to think they might need a family or medical leave, There’s such sensitive information around that. And, is there any advice you could help managers or business leaders with to help people open up to them to share the details just to the level that you need?

Laura 16:20
Right? Yeah, I think that’s a critical piece to any leave management program working or not working. I think if, as an employer, you can dedicate someone in HR to handling all of family medical leave, that is ideal, because you have that person that can kind of walk them through through from start to finish. If you know your organization’s too large and you need to outsource that I would really work on identifying a vendor that’s going to give you the service that you need that they can quickly see how can they show the employees that they can trust this vendor with information and getting that paperwork here or there. I would start – and if you have that HR representative, their job needs to be able to make sure they’re very thorough in explaining that the details of family medical leave why it was enacted, how it’s there to assist them. I think some people think, Oh, no, I don’t, I don’t need it. I don’t want it. Maybe they’ve heard somebody else in their department had a bad experience. When, you know, when they had to apply for FMLA, I think it’s a lot about educating the employee explained to them that this is really a benefit. It allows us to hold your position, secure your position for 12 weeks. There’s really nothing else like that unless you know you have an administrative leave or medical leave policy in your organization. And that certification from the physician is what’s going to allow me to continue to hold your position, you know, you may be out you may need to be out and that’s really what I need to make sure that we can secure your position. And really having a solid process in place – so making sure that any, you know, again, starting with that education on the manager level, making sure all employees are giving the same opportunities, making sure whoever processing the paperwork again, if it’s on site, or it’s a vendor, that everyone’s having the same experience, because that’s going to help you build the confidence in that program and make it work. It’s going to allow employees to be willing to participate, apply for, and use it how it’s how it’s meant to be. You know, if you find your staff are abusing leave, or are unwilling to apply, that can really just make you figure out that you need a better program. You need a consistent compliance program in place, you need to really educate your managers again, and the employees on the leave and the benefits. And I think that’s all going back to how do you allow them to share this information with, you know, they trust the system and that, again, instead of having a coworker that had a bad experience, they had a co worker that had, you know, a knee replacement, they were out for eight weeks, they returned back to work, and they’re doing great and his benefits were in place his you know, disability payments continued, like, everything worked appropriately, because they knew the timeline up front, they knew when everything was due, there was communication with the manager, he’s returning to work, it wasn’t a surprise, you know, there’s just so many pieces to that puzzle. It’s going to take time if, if there’s not a solid, you know, program in place, it’s going to take time to either and again, have that dedicated HR person on site or if you’re looking at vendors and you select or have to change a vendor takes time, you know, like anybody you know, when they change our insurance plan, you know, takes us a while to get used to the new you know, the new website or the new contact information, but you really need is somebody trusted in HR or a vendor To really enable you to allow employees to be open about sharing information.

JoDee 20:05
And Laura, you mentioned workers comp, but just to know that those, those can be part of the complication and the confusion as well, that alongside following the FMLA program, you might have other complicating factors like short term disability, Long Term Disability worker’s comp, what your PTO policy is all those are, it might be in addition to or alongside FMLA as well,

Laura 20:38
Right, you get several questions about… so is this FMLA paperwork? Is that how I get a check while I’m off work? Well, again, FMLA it’s an unpaid benefits. So no, it’s really not. It’s really about protecting your position. We do need to get short term disability paperwork filled out as well or working with some people now that they have a great new parent policy or program and so they they pay their employees for 12 weeks? Well, I didn’t think that I, you know, needed to fill out family medical leave because we have this, you know, program that I, you know, that’s unrelated. So again, it’s just that education piece of letting them kind of absorb what what they need to fill out when they need to fill it out, and why, you know, every employer is a little bit different and what benefits other benefits they offer? Again, we talked about PTO, sometimes employers require everybody to use their PTO or use it to a certain balance before before they might let him keep a week or two to come back or you know, it’s just… it’s gonna depend, you’re gonna have to look at a lot of different policies when you’re when you’re looking at family medical leave for sure.

Susan 21:47
So when handling a case that’s approaching leave expiration, what do you recommend regarding that situation?

Laura 21:55
Yeah, that can be really tricky and I’ve been with employers that have had to You know what that in the past and it’s really tough decision. Because what’s happening is you have a team member that’s battling physical ailment, or maybe a family member is but more than likely, it’s the employee when it gets to be that, you know, 12 week mark. And unfortunately, they may not have a return to work date given to them by a physician or it’s kind of unknown. And when that’s happening, there’s no universal policy out there that we can look at. So you have to look at, you know, as an organization, do you have any separate administrative or medical leave policy that would potentially tag on to that? Or do you need to be having some tough conversations about unfortunately, you know, as of March 15, your 480 hours is going to be exhausted and we need to talk about, you know, us unfortunately, due to the business need, we can’t hold your position. Talk about COBRA, talk about all of these other pieces that kick in at that point. And what else kind of comes into mind then is ADA, the American Disabilities Act, and that used to be more so where we could look at the physician might say, you know, really think they let’s say they’ve been off 12 weeks, you know, in three weeks, they’re going to be ready to come back to work. And you said, okay, that seems reasonable, we can accommodate that. We’ll let them come back in three weeks. And there was a Seventh Circuit Court back in September of 2017, that upheld that an inability to work for a multiple month period, removed a person from the class of employee protected by ADA. And so just needing off work wasn’t a reasonable accommodation or wouldn’t protect them under ADA. And it said multiple months. So again, my example might be they need to be off, you know, two months. Well, is that reasonable or not? They’re saying it doesn’t mean you don’t have to protect that time anymore. Now, we now know so if they need a few extra days a week or two, that’s reason But anything really beyond that it’s not so reasonable, don’t have to protect that. Now, ADA is more about accommodating. So once they can come back to work, what might they need? And so sometimes in these, you have those conversations, but, you know, majority of these cases where it’s kind of unknown, or it’s going to be another month or two or, again, you just don’t know, I would recommend really having those conversations about, you know, you unfortunately, you’re following family medical leave, that protects their position for those 12 weeks, and you might need to be letting them go. Again, having those conversations, it’s sensitive, but if you’re prepared and you’re transparent, from kind of the start to the finish, I’ve seen it go okay, like, it’s never maybe what they want or, again, you know, unfortunately there are times where people just at that point, they just aren’t able to work, you know, aren’t able to work. So again, just helping them through that process and getting them everything they need to make sure their benefits are still in place and that sort of thing. I mean, what I’ve done to an employer’s before, unfortunately, is that you’ll find that like your insurance plan, your medical plan won’t cover them because they’re not really active. And so as an employer, you think you’re, you know, protecting, you know, okay, well, we’ll do it another month or two months. But, you know, if they force you to say, you know, how long have they been out? And you say, well, they’ve been out for five months now, well, they’re not active based on your summary plan description and you know, your benefits packet.

Susan 25:29
So, the situation that I’ve seen, Laura is where the employee who everyone loves, everybody loves that person, they, they’ve been the company 30 years, they are not going to replace them, and they’re doing everything they can to hold on to them, even if it’s 6, 7, 8 months, and then you have the employee that no one ever really liked. On the day that those 12 weeks come they want him gone. And that’s what’s really tough. What do you recommend when you have that kind of a forces at bay and you’re the HR person trying to run the program?

Laura 25:56
Yeah. I always talk to the employers about being consistent. And once you make a decision on someone, and you have to start at some point, right, like we can’t say, you know, two years ago and they let Sally stay for six months, like, we might have to let that decision go. But start and really, okay, what are we going to do you have to look at the business need, you know, can you know, what, what do we say we do and what are we going to do? And I’ve been in some unemployment hearings where you know, if you, even if it’s in your policy, and you say you’re going to, you know, this is how you follow it. If you don’t, if you give people even more than, you can, you know, you can’t hold that up, because you know, you have to be consistent. So…

Susan 26:43
So you’re putting the company at risk, right? And I’ll tell you, there’s departments out there that they will all carry that load for as long as they need to keep, to make sure there’s a spot when Susan comes back. And there’s others who they are just so happy that someone has been out for 12 weeks, the department’s running better without them and they’re thinking do we really have to bring them back? So that’s tough. I think that’s the real world.

Laura 27:04
And I think another thing… and it happens seems, often, more often than not is that those employees that, you know, they may not be your best performers, and they may not be coming to work on time, and now they’re on FMLA. And now they’re, well, they’re, you know, now we have to work on their performance and, you know, things again, if the managers had been trained if, if everybody holding their employees accountable, wouldn’t get down some of those roads, where now it’s letting FMLA decide if they’re, you know eligible. Where it should have maybe been handled under disciplanary action, you know.

Susan 27:41
Then we get into the discussion where the employee wasn’t performing very well, or they were late for work. We didn’t realize that they were starting to have symptoms of a condition. So I mean, it gets very complex, which leads me to whenever I have an FMLA question I call Laura. Yeah, because it’s hairy. It’s just hairy.

JoDee 27:57
And that’s for our listeners out there who have questions about the way your organizations, or if you need help in administering these programs, we recommend you reach out to Laura, or if you’re interested in outsourcing your FMLA program, Laura, how can our listeners get ahold of you in either of those situations?

Laura 28:21
Yeah, I’m glad to answer any questions. They can reach me via email at, or go to our Purple Ink website and they can find some of those resources as well.

JoDee 28:40
So Laura, I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast about some people think oh, it seems easy. You have a baby, you take 12 weeks off, you come back to work with a guaranteed position – what’s so complicated about it? But reality is, it’s not always a full 12 weeks. Tell us about that.

Laura 28:58
Right. I would say even more probably half the time that you’re dealing with family medical leave it is more on an intermittent basis. And what intermittent means is that this person might have a chronic condition, you might see diabetes, you know, lupus, some conditions that are more episodic or flare up for employees… migraines you see quite a bit of as well now. And so what usually the physician has indicated on those types of forums are “John needs to be off, or may need to be off one to two times a week for an hour or two per episode for the next six months.” And so that gives you the guideline that you can give the manager that says, you know, john might be out one to two times every week for an hour episode. So you kind of look at that like that could be, what, up to four hours a week. And if that changes, or he’s seeming that he needs more time, you know, let me know, and I can reevaluate or he might have to go talk to his physician about that. And so those instances, sometimes the example I gave there is pretty kind of targeted, you can either, you know, they’re kind of under those those guide parameters or they’re going to be outside of it. Sometimes they’re more frequent where it could be, you know, up to two to three days a week for eight hours a day. And so sometimes you’ll hear, I don’t know if you’ve heard of like the Monday Friday occurrence. So sometimes you have employees that will take almost every Friday, followed by the Monday off, they work a couple days, then it’s Friday again, in those instances, I would say you are able to, you know, ask for clarification from the physician, sometimes just a conversation with the employee is a good kind of eye opener just to make sure they’re doing okay, and to let them know that you kind of are aware of the time that they’re taking. And that intermittent time you’re really tracking can be down to the hour. And so that can be a kind of a difficult or challenging situation for managers. If you think about a scheduling or I’ve been in a hospital setting, so let’s say you have a nurse that is allowed based on her visit physician to come in to miss two hours, you know, every week and so every Monday, unfortunately, from her start from 7am to 9am, she’s not there, but that’s an approved absence and they have to find coverage. You know, there’s a lot of things that can be a little frustrating, but you really have to go back to what the physician gave and the guidelines and make sure they’re working within those. And those intermittent can be really tricky. And that’s sometimes like I said, where you find some of these things coming up, where it could be just the times that they’re missing based on the schedule. Sometimes an intermittent leave may also be that they need like an adjustment on their schedule a little bit like they might be able to work four hours a day. They might need to work only four hours a day for two days, but then other can otherwise work a full day, you really have got to work with the manager to make sure that that works for their department, and that you’re following those guidelines. So…

JoDee 32:27
So it sounds like when when you mentioned the example of the Friday – Monday that there could be some opportunities for abuse with the system. What do you recommend HR professionals on how do they handle that if they’re worried or concerned that there might be abuse happening?

Laura 32:47
I would say again, it goes back to kind of record keeping and making sure that they are tracking that really consistently and if it’s not a daily time that the managers putting that in the system at least every week. It’s entered into the system, that FMLA time. If it becomes something very apparent that it’s outside of the parameters, I think you can have the conversation with the employee, push back to them that you need some updated paperwork because they’re outside of the parameters. But I have been in situations where there’s still within what the physician indicated, but it just always happens to be like the Monday Friday. And so again, then I would just start with a conversation to the employee and see if that might just just kind of get them you know, a little more in tune to maybe what’s happening. But I also would again, be working pretty directly with that manager to make sure that any anything and the other thing about intermittent and an any FMLA like they still need to be following call in procedures. So if it’s normally you text your manager that you’re not going to be able to come to work, they need to be doing that timely. They need to be making sure that they are reporting their time away from work. And that can be also another either conversation you have or if they’re not following that, it could be potentially disciplined. It’s not that you’re denying the time off, but you are, you’re needing them to make sure they’re following normal procedures or policies that you have in place. So that can be another way to some of these that might be pushing the envelope on really taking advantage of this benefit, where you can you could potentially still discipline if they’re not following the policy or the procedures.

JoDee 34:35
And so just to clarify on that, we talk about it generally in terms of 12 weeks off, but what I hear you saying is you have 480 hours, and literally for a lot of employees, it might be counting one hour at a time or two hours at a time every single week.

Laura 34:57
Exactly. And that would be based on a full time schedule, so it can be adjusted that number of hours would be adjusted if they were maybe less than full time. So that 480 hours if, somebody, it could still be 12 weeks, but if they only work 35 hours a week, then it would be the 35 hours times 12 weeks. And so that total number of hours may be less than the 480.

Susan 35:28
Okay, gotcha. Well, Laura, a number of years ago, I had cancer, and I was off for three weeks. And then 11 months later, I had a different kind of cancer, and I was off five weeks, and I kept thinking about oh my gosh, I know it’s a rolling 12 months, but can you explain for our listeners, what do you mean by 480 hours in a rolling 12 months?

Laura 35:47
Right. Great question. And they are a couple of different ways that you can do that. And a lot of times, let’s say your first event that you needed started March 1st, and you took those, you know, three weeks, that would count against the 12 weeks, and you still would have 9 weeks coming all the way back to that March 1st. And so it sounds like yours all like 8 weeks kind of fit into that 12 months as of March 1st again, you would get another 480 hours. You can also look back, so as someone applies for FMLA, and is approved for FMLA, actually start from, like, let’s say it’s today and you’d look back 12 months, they haven’t used any time. So you get your 480 then as you start deducting time, they don’t really earn it back until that time next year, so no one would ever get 480 hours on a date. They’re earning that back, and there’s spreadsheets to help you kind of calculate that. Yeah, calculate that, there are vendors out there. And it’s, it’s, it can be really confusing. And again, that’s another what I have found beneficial with some employees is that they and I kind of share that like you Here’s your calendar. And sometimes people, especially these intermittent ones, it’s interesting how they can manage under kind of those guidelines. But then like, as they earn more, they might take more. So again, that’s kind of another one of those, like, just kind of watch those and see and make sure they’re, they’re following that, go back to that medical certification and make sure they’re following that those guidelines, but there are some calculators out there that can really help you kind of stay on track. And sometimes just sharing that with the employee so they know this is what, you know, why we had to deny 8 hours is yesterday, you didn’t have any but today, you may have earned that back. So you might have 8 hours out as of today.

Susan 37:39
Being transparent. Makes sense.

JoDee 37:40
Right. You don’t want any surprises at the end of the time to let them know. And I hate to get too overly complicated, but now I’m thinking of so many questions in my head. There’s got to be situations to where what if, for example, I have intermittently for having migraines. And then my daughter has a baby and I want to take time off to help her or my child has an illness of some sort that I need. So what happens if there’s two situations going on at the same time?

Laura 38:14
That happens, and that can be, you’re going to start kind of tracking from that first request of FMLA. You can track them kind of concurrently, but it’s all going to go towards that hours bucket or the weeks the bucket. So I would again, making sure upfront that they know kind of that second request comes in maybe you need to take you know, three full weeks to help care for your daughter that you know, before those that time starts, what you have, and that would be part of kind of that eligibility is that you are eligible, you can be approved, but you have X amount of time to use and that and that would be all towards kind of that bucket that you have. And you know, unfortunately, you know… or fortunately, maybe, I don’t know. But you know, you will see in organizations, employees names that come up fairly often, like you said they might have one or two things going on, they might just have something that’s intermittent or a chronic condition. And they sometimes you’ll find, too, that employees might just get it, you know, in case they need it, which is, you know, sometimes okay as well. But you will find that there might be a couple situations. I’ve had some recently where maybe the employees had a surgery, but then you know, maybe their parent is now on hospice. So they’re taking that, you know, time as well. But again, it’s just being really upfront on how many hours do they have, and, again, kind of avoiding that surprise, you don’t ever I mean, this this time is difficult, and in making sure that they’re aware of this benefit and what they have, and even if you have to tell them, they don’t have it or that they only have a certain amount of time, just being up front and with them, they appreciate that because they it’s kind of one less thing, they have to check off their list of things to get, you know, get done during this time.

Susan 40:07
So as we were talking about concurrent reasons why you might need time off, I get it, it all comes in that same one bucket. Now, if a worker’s comp issue does arise, if an employee is injured in the workplace, none of that is involved with their 480 hours, is it? Or can it?

Laura 40:23

Susan 40:23
Oh, wow. So you got you got hurt at work, and you still might be hurting on your hours? Talk about that, if you would.

Laura 40:30
Yeah. So, if an employee is injured at work under workers compensation, I have always been under the impression and give that recommendation to my clients to run family medical leave concurrently with that. And so that means that, you know, they may be treating with a certain physician under work comp, but that physician will also fill out their family medical leave forms, and that starts there if you know FMLA to think I’d have To go back and really think if I’ve had one a situation where they’ve met that 12 weeks and, and what, what you’d really have to get into versus, you know, letting them go, you know, workers compensation, they’re they’re getting a benefit while they’re not working. And you’d have to kind of figure out at what point then does that need to lead into other, like a long term disability or other if they if they can come back, so yeah, you can run all that together.

Susan 41:26
I’d be extremely reluctant to end somebody’s job who got injured in my workplace, wow. Yeah.

JoDee 41:33
So complicated. All right. Thank you so much for joining us today, Laura.

Susan 41:37
It’s really helpful. Thank you.

Laura 41:39
Thank you.

Susan 41:40
Well, we do have a best practice sharing in this particular episode. And this one we put out to all of our listeners and we got some interesting responses. We asked our listeners for their advice on good business travel etiquette. My guess is that many of our listeners, business leaders, HR professionals, that you from time to time have to get on an airplane, you have to jump in a car, get on a train for work, and we wanted to hear what are some things that you wish those other travelers would either consider doing or stop doing in order to make your business travel better?

JoDee 42:10
Yeah. Number one join every travel frequent flyer club you can I am a big believer in that one.

Susan 42:19
You are good at this too.

JoDee 42:20
Hotel stays, priority access to rental cars, free plane trips, free hotel stays, they all make it worth it for me.

Susan 42:28
Yeah, I think that’s really just a great tip for any traveler. My husband always says no, don’t join another one. You aren’t you tired of giving out our phone number, our email address, I always say it’s a small price to pay. If someday I get a free hotel room, small price to pay. So number two, this really is about other travelers. And that is if you’re sick, don’t fly or don’t get on the train. Don’t get in in any public vehicle. Because I know that you want to get home from where you are, or you feel that you need to get to that meeting. They can’t possibly run this company without you. But the fact is that you may be infecting those you’re in tight quarters with, and that’s not right for them and really you need to take the time to get well.

JoDee 43:05
Yeah. Number three, this one’s difficult. I think it says don’t lean back in your seat unless you absolutely have to. The person behind you can’t open their laptop and work if they need to. That one’s tough, I think because it’s, it’s uncomfortable to sit straight up on those long flights. But I’m a heavy laptop user myself, so I get it from both angles.

Susan 43:29
Did you see the YouTube video recently where they had a woman who leaned back and the guy behind her got really mad, and then he just kept punching the back of her seat? Oh my gosh, come on! Where’s our civility? Oh, don’t be doing that. Right. Number four. If you have a child on your lap, don’t let them kick or slap the back the seat in front of them.

JoDee 43:47
Yeah, and as you just said it might not just be a child.

Susan 43:51
I know it might be an upset passenger. Number five. If you know you need to use the bathroom frequently, if that’s your thing get an aisle seat. Oh my gosh.

JoDee 44:04
That’s a tough one too. Number six. Do not ask someone to move seats so you can sit with your spouse or friend. Most people spend time, and now there’s so many different ways to buy your seat, right? Or to upgrade that. So asking someone to move who might have paid more for their seat makes the person feel like a heel if they say no.

Susan 44:27
You know that’s true. You have to say no, there’s probably people sitting around you watching you say no. Yeah. So I think that’s a great tip. Try not to ask people to move seats. Yeah. Number seven. If the flight attendant asks everyone not to put their jackets, their purses, their miscellaneous items in the overhead bins until all the luggage is up, maybe because it’s a full flight, please follow that request. It is horrible to bring a carry on onboard and the bin near your seat is full of this stuff and there’s no room. Has that ever happened to you, JoDee?

JoDee 44:57
You know, I keep all the things underneath my seat, I usually don’t ever use the overhead.

Susan 45:04
Do you carry carry ons mostly? Or do you check your luggage?

JoDee 45:06
I check my luggage, and I bring a small bag and put it under my feet.

Susan 45:10
Isn’t that something? I’d always heard that adage that there’s two types of luggage: carry on and lost, so I’m always I’m always afraid especially I’m going on a business trip to check my bag, but maybe I should do that too.

JoDee 45:22
I know I’m odd duck, but I always check mine.

Susan 45:25
No, Good advice.

JoDee 45:27
Number eight. Don’t bring stinky food on the plane. You might enjoy it for 10 minutes, but the rest of the passengers might have a few hours to smell it.

Susan 45:37
Oh yeah, that’s good advice. Number nine, negotiate the armrest real estate with a neighbor each time. I never thought about talking about which part of this armrest is yours what part of its mine? Interesting.

JoDee 45:51
Number 10. If you’re traveling with someone or just strike up a conversation, be considerate and use your quietest inside voice you can. I’ve heard too much information I shouldn’t have and didn’t want to on airplanes, boy, this the truth, I think 17 times, I’ve learned all about a person’s life by because they’re sitting behind me.

Susan 46:13
So you know what, these are great tips. If anyone has any other tips, we always love to hear them and happy to share them. Let’s have JoyPowered trips. So, JoDee, we’ve got a listener question. “My boss made a comment saying, and I quote “you, write, like you talk.” Initially, I didn’t respond to the comment because I didn’t know how to respond. But it did hurt my feelings and made me feel slightly embarrassed insinuating that I can’t talk, that’s why I don’t write well, how do I give her this feedback?”

JoDee 46:43
I have to tell you, this question really hit me in maybe an interesting way because I remember when I wrote the first JoyPowered book, I had several people tell me as they were reading, they said you write just like you talk and I felt like I was having a conversation with you as I was reading the book.

Susan 47:04
Sounds like a compliment.

JoDee 47:05
So I took that as a compliment. Yes. And so when I saw this listener question, it really made me rethink of, first of all, my reaction was – ask your boss if they meant it as a compliment, or if they had concerns about it, But either way, I do think that’s my, my recommendation is to ask more about it, right? What did they mean? Sometimes we need to write more formally, and talk more casually. Or sometimes we can write more casually and talk more formally. So what what did your boss mean by that? And was that good or bad or what was what was the situation in both of those? I don’t all by itself – now obviously, I’m not getting the tone of the conversation in the email – but I don’t, on the face of that, take that as something negative. And I think so many times, that’s what happens to us with our leaders or even our peers or our teams is that we make assumptions about what the person meant by that, or we get our feelings hurt. And we don’t ask more about it.

Susan 48:18
Yeah, I think that’s very fair. And I think if I had that conversation I’d start with, “hey, I’ve been reflecting on the comment you made last Tuesday. I really want to be good at what I do here. You said something, I’m not sure if it was a compliment, or if it wasn’t, but I want to be the best I can be. So let’s talk about it.”

JoDee 48:33
Yeah, tell me more.

Susan 48:34
I think that takes the sting out of you said something that hurt me, right? Start from a place of striving and developing and I’m looking for your feedback. Yeah. So good luck with that. I would, I’d love to hear and you know what, it was a compliment. Congratulations to you. T

JoDee 48:46
That’s right, you never know. In our in the news section, today we’re talking about upskilling from SHRM’s All Things Work. With qualified workers in short supply, companies are training current employees to meet the changing demands of their jobs. This upskilling trend helps workers qualify for positions that are hard to fill, including many that require enhanced technical skills. And by the way, I think that’s that’s the way a lot of companies and organizations are getting through this hiring process or this critical hiring needs, is looking at how can they train current employees to fill those roles. So Sherm says in the past, employers simply acquired new talent to fill in demand positions, but that’s no longer an option for many companies. As an example, AT&T employs about 250,000 workers, and spends about $200 million annually on employee training. Another example of Price Waterhouse Coopers is upskilling all of its 50,000 employees, and even Walmart runs 201 academies inside Walmart Super Centers and modular classrooms in store parking lots where employees receive training. So that can be a wide variety of those three examples, wide variety of different skill sets that employees might have, and they’re all three still working on upscaling. So while upscaling is primarily used to address skills deficiency, it yields other benefits to including strong employee retention. It’s better business to upskill people who already work for you and give them a career path. That was said by Ryan Carson, who’s the CEO of an online coding school Treehouse Island, Inc. If there’s no path they’ll leave. Ironically, we talked about that earlier in the podcast, about ways to keep employees on and one of those is helping them grow and develop and creating career paths for them.

Susan 51:07
I love that quote, I think it was Richard Branson od Virgin companies where he said, “what happens if you invest in your people and they leave?” And his responses is “What happens if you don’t and they stay?” So yeah, retool, reinvest, and really provide that career path for the talent that you have. It makes all the sense in the world.

JoDee 51:26
Right, right. So thank you for listening today. And make it a JoyPowered day.

Susan 51:37
If you would like SHRM recertification credit for listening to this podcast, please visit You’ll find an evaluation of the podcast, and once you complete the evaluation, you will see the SHRM recertification credit code and a link to a proof of participation certificate. Again, that’s Thank you for listening and thanks for your dedication to the HR profession.

JoDee 52:05
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed the JoyPowered Workspace Podcast. If you liked the show, please tell your friends about it, and let us know what you think of our podcast by rating and reviewing us on Apple Podcasts. It helps new people find our show. The JoyPowered Workspace Podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Susan 52:31
You can learn more about JoyPowered and find our books and blogs at or at JoyPowered on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Sign up for our monthly email newsletter at

JoDee 52:46
If you have comments, suggestions or questions about anything related to business or HR, you can leave us a voicemail at 317-688-1613 or email us at We hope you tune in next time, make it a JoyPowered day.

Jake Bouvy
Jake Bouvy
Jake is a former member of the JoyPowered podcast team.

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