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DOL Clarifies FMLA Leave Cannot Be Delayed

FMLA written in chalk style on green background

On March 14, 2019, the Department of Labor issued an opinion letter clarifying that neither employers nor employees may delay or decline designation of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protection for a qualifying condition.

The question posed to the DOL represented that some employers “voluntarily permit employees to exhaust some or all available paid sick leave prior to designating leave as FMLA-qualifying, even when the leave is clearly FMLA-qualifying.” The DOL responded clearly:

“Once an eligible employee communicates a need to take leave for an FMLA-qualifying reason, neither the employee nor the employer may decline FMLA protection for that leave.”


“The employer may not delay designating leave as FMLA-qualifying, even if the employee would prefer that the employer delay the designation.”

While nothing has changed in the law, the opinion letter offers clarity. An employer must designate FMLA-qualifying leave as such and must do so for all absences that qualify.

Best Practices in Leave Administration

School districts should continue to follow best practices in administering leave. Processes for requesting, reporting, and granting leave should be:

  • Clearly defined
  • Consistently applied
  • Communicated to employees
  • Based on policy provisions


Visit our HR Library for more information on leave administration.

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