Tuesday, February 12, 2013

BREAKING: FMLA compliance is not as easy as the DOL says [poll results]

In celebration of the FMLA’s 20th anniversary, the Department of Labor released the results of a survey of employers on their experiences managing the statute. According to the DOL, “employers generally find it easy to comply with the law, and … the vast majority of employers, 91 percent, report that complying with the FMLA has either no noticeable effect or a positive effect on business operations….”

That conclusion sounded so out of touch with reality that I decided to run my own (not so scientific) poll. I asked one simple question:

How difficult has it been for your company to comply with the FMLA?

200 responded (thanks to Jeff Nowak, the Evil HR Lady, and Robin Shea for the link-love). The results are not pretty for the DOL’s credibility. Not so surprisingly, my poll reached the exact opposite conclusion.

  • Only 9.5 percent of respondents report that the FMLA compliance is very easy or somewhat easy.
  • Conversely, a whopping 68 percent report that FMLA compliance is very difficult or somewhat difficult.

The complete results—


Very difficult

20.5 %

Somewhat difficult

47.5 %

Average difficulty

22.5 %

Somewhat easy

6.5 %

Very easy

3 %

What do these resultsmean? It means that either the DOL found the only sample of employers in the country who have no issues managing FMLA compliance, or the DOL put so much spin on its survey results that its conclusions are not credible. Do I need to tell you that I think it’s the latter?

I am saddened by the DOL’s apparent chicanery. These tactics do not help raise FMLA awareness; they lower the DOL’s credibility. It is no secret that (1) the United States lags behind the rest of world in workplace leave rights; and (2) the FMLA’s mission is noble, albeit one that poses an administrative nightmare for conscientious employers. Surveys that rob the DOL of its credibility in enforcing this statute do not help employers comply with this law. Instead of creating surveys that mislead everyone into thinking that the FMLA is working, the DOL should recognize that FMLA compliance is difficult and put its resources into helping employers meet its complex maze of requirements.