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County looks into ways to address sick leave abuse

Employers often face a dilemma when their staffing needs conflict with leave requests from employees. On the one hand, they need to consider the legal ramifications of the Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly referred to as FMLA. On the other hand, they need to make sure that employees aren't using leave requests to take advantage of the company.

Additionally, many employees request intermittent leave -- smaller amounts on more occasions -- instead of single large blocks of time. That can make the predictability of covering their work obligations very challenging for employers. It is typically harder arrange that coverage when leave is intermittent.

Correspondingly, many employers are seeking to institute oversight protocols to ensure that sick leave is used properly. One county took this objective to a private company that was already managing their worker's compensation program to their satisfaction. That company set up a system that has medical professionals fielding requests for leave from employees that bring in paperwork from their doctor to request it.

This is called a "clinical oversight model". The intent is to have requests reviewed by individuals who are truly capable of making informed reviews by virtue of their medical qualifications. The county feels that this will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of leave requests that occur in accordance with the legal requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

This case illustrates the importance of employers and employees being fully aware of legal rights and obligations under the FMLA. Like in this case, employers want to both follow the law to the letter and simultaneously ensure that they're not being taken advantage of, since employee absences do adversely affect their operations.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Allegheny County hires firm to curb employee sick-leave abuse" Kaitlynn Riely and Andrew McGill, May. 26, 2014

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