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Notice

Proposed Extension of the Approval of Information Collection Requirements

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AGENCY:

Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Labor, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, conducts a preclearance consultation program to provide the general public and Federal agencies with an opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing collections of information in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA95). 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A). This program helps to ensure that requested data can be provided in a desired format, reporting burden (time and financial resources) is minimized, collection instruments are clearly understood, and the impact of collection requirements on respondents can be properly assessed. Currently, the Wage and Hour Division is soliciting comments concerning its proposal to extend Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval of the Information Collection: The Family and Medical Leave Act Optional Forms. A copy of the proposed information request can be obtained by contacting the office listed below in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this Notice.

DATES:

Written comments must be submitted to the office listed in the ADDRESSES section below on or before November 28, 2011.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments identified by Control Number 1235-0003, by either one of the following methods: E-mail: WHDPRAComments@dol.gov; Mail, Hand Delivery, Courier: Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. Instructions: Please submit one copy of your comments by only one method. All submissions received must include the agency name and Control Number identified above for this information collection. Because we continue to experience delays in receiving mail in the Washington, DC area, commenters are strongly encouraged to transmit their comments electronically via e-mail or to submit them by mail early. Comments, including any personal information provided, become a matter of public record. They will also be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of the information collection request.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mary Ziegler, Director, Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation, Wage and Hour, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone (202) 693-0406 (this is not a toll-free number). Copies of this notice may be obtained in alternative formats (Large Print, Braille, Audio Tape, or Disc), upon request, by calling (202) 693-0023 (not a toll-free number). TTY/TTD callers may dial toll-free (877) 889-5627 to obtain information to request materials in alternative formats.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background: The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, et seq., requires private sector employers who employ 50 or more employees, all public and private elementary schools, and all public agencies to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period to eligible employees for certain family and medical reasons (i.e., for birth of a son or daughter and to care for the newborn child; for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care; to care for the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition; because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee's job; and to address qualifying exigencies arising out of the deployment of the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent to covered active duty in the military), and up to 26 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the employee. FMLA section 404 requires the Secretary of Labor to prescribe such regulations as necessary to enforce this Act. 29 U.S.C. 2654.Start Printed Page 60087

WHD Publication 1420 allows employers to satisfy the general notice requirement. See § 825.300(a).

A. Employee Notice of Need for FMLA Leave [29 U.S.C. 2612(e); 29 CFR 825.100(d), -.301(b), -.302, -.303]. An employee must provide the employer at least 30 days advance notice before FMLA leave is to begin if the need for the leave is foreseeable based on an expected birth, placement for adoption or foster care, or planned medical treatment for a serious health condition of the employee or of a family member or planned medical treatment for a serious injury or illness of a covered servicemember. If 30 days notice is not practicable, such as because of a lack of knowledge of approximately when leave will be required to begin, a change in circumstances, or a medical emergency, notice must be given as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the particular case. When an employee seeks leave for the first time for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee need not expressly assert rights under the FMLA or even mention the FMLA. The employee must, however, provide sufficient information that indicates that leave is potentially FMLA-qualifying and the timing and anticipated duration of the absence. Such information may include that a condition renders the employee unable to perform the functions of the job, or if the leave is to care for a family member, that the condition renders the family member unable to perform daily activities or, that the family member is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, and whether the employee or the employee's family member is under the continuing care of a health care provider. Sufficient information for leave due to a qualifying family member's call (or impending call) to active duty status may include that the military member is on or has been called to covered active duty and that the requested leave is for one of the categories of qualify exigency leave. An employer, generally, may require an employee to comply with its usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave.

B. Notice to Employee of FMLA Eligibility and Rights and Responsibilities Notice [29 CFR 825.219-.300(b)]. When an employee requests FMLA leave or when the employer acquires knowledge that an employee's leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee—within five business days, absent extenuating circumstances—of the employee's eligibility to take FMLA leave and any additional requirements for taking such leave. The eligibility notice must provide information regarding the employee's eligibility for FMLA leave and, if the employee is determined not to meet the eligibility criteria, provide at least one reason why the employee is not eligible. The rights and responsibilities notice must detail the specific rights and responsibilities of the employee and explain any consequences of a failure to meet these responsibilities. If an employee provides notices of a subsequent need for FMLA leave during the applicable 12-month period due to a different FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer does not have to provide an additional eligibility notice if the employee's eligibility status has not changed. If the employee's eligibility status has changed, then the employer must notify the employee of the change in eligibility status within five business days, absent extenuating circumstances. The rights and responsibilities notice must be provided to the employee each time the eligibility notice is provided to the employee. Form WH-381 allows an employer to satisfy the regulatory requirement to provide employees with specific information concerning eligibility status and with written notice detailing specific rights as well as expectations and obligations of the employee and explaining any consequences of a failure to meet these obligations. See § 825.300(b) and (c).

C. Medical Certification and Recertification [29 U.S.C. 2613, 2614(c)(3); 29 CFR 825.100(d), -.305-.308]. An employer may require that an employee's leave due to the employee's own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform one or more essential functions of the employee's position or to care for the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition, be supported by a certification issued by the health care provider of the eligible employee or of the employee's family member. In addition, an employer may request recertification under certain conditions. The employer must provide the employee at least 15 calendar days to provide the initial certification and any subsequent recertification unless the employee is not able to do so despite his or her diligent good faith efforts. An employer must advise an employee whenever it finds a certification incomplete or insufficient and state in writing what additional information is necessary to make the certification complete and sufficient and must provide the employee seven calendar days (unless not practicable under the particular circumstances despite the employee's diligent good faith efforts) to cure any identified deficiency. The employer may contact the employee's health care provider for purposes of clarification and authentication of the medical certification (whether initial certification or recertification) after the employer has given the employee an opportunity to cure any identified deficiencies. An employer, at its own expense and subject to certain limitations, also may require an employee to obtain a second and third medical opinion. Form WH-380-E allows an employee requesting FMLA-leave for his or her own serious health condition to satisfy the statutory requirement to furnish, upon the employer's request, appropriate certification (including a second or third opinion and recertification) to support the need for leave for the employee's own serious health condition. See § 825.305(a). Form WH-380-F allows an employee requesting FMLA-leave for a family member's serious health condition to satisfy the statutory requirement to furnish, upon the employer's request, appropriate certification (including a second or third opinion and recertification) to support the need for leave for the family member's serious health condition. See § 825.305(a).

D. Certification for Leave for a Qualifying Exigency. [29 CFR 825.309] An employer may require an employee who requests FMLA-leave due to a qualifying exigency to certify the need for leave. In addition, the first time an employee requests leave for a qualifying exigency related to a qualifying family member's active duty status, an employer may require the employee to provide a copy of the military member's active duty orders or other documentation issued by the military that indicates the military member is on covered active duty. Optional Form WH-384 allows an employee requesting FMLA leave based on a qualifying exigency to satisfy the statutory requirement to furnish, upon the employer's request, appropriate certification to support leave for a qualifying exigency.

E. Certification for Leave to Care for Covered Servicemember. [29 CFR 825.310] An employee who requests FMLA-leave to care for a covered servicemember may be required by his or her employer to certify the need for leave. Optional Form WH-385 currently allows an employee requesting FMLA leave based on an active duty covered servicemember's serious injury or illness to satisfy the statutory requirement to furnish, upon the employer's request, a medical Start Printed Page 60088certification from an authorized health care provider. An employer must accept as sufficient certification of leave to care for a covered servicemember an invitational travel order or invitational travel authorization (ITO or ITA) issued to the employee or to another family member in lieu of optional Form WH-385 or the employer's own form.

F. Notice to Employees of FMLA Designation [29 CFR §§ 825.300(c) -.301(a)]. When the employer has enough information to determine whether the leave qualifies as FMLA leave (after receiving a medical certification, for example), the employer must notify the employee within five business days of making such determination whether the leave has or has not been designated as FMLA leave and the number of hours, days or weeks that will be counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement. If it is not possible to provide the hours, days or weeks that will be counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement (such as in the case of unforeseeable intermittent leave), then such information must be provided upon request by the employee but not more often than once every 30 days if leave is taken during the 30-day period. If the employer requires paid leave to be substituted for unpaid leave, or that paid leave taken under an existing leave plan be counted as FMLA leave, this designation also must be made at the time of the FMLA designation. In addition, if the employer will require the employee to submit a fitness-for-duty certification, the employer must provide notice of the requirement with the designation notice. Form WH-382 allows an employer to meet its obligation to designate leave as FMLA-qualifying. See § 825.300(d).

G. Fitness-for-Duty Medical Certification [29 U.S.C. 2614(a)(4); 29 CFR 825.312]. As a condition of restoring an employee whose FMLA leave was occasioned by the employee's own serious health condition that made the employee unable to perform the employee's job, an employer may have a uniformly-applied policy or practice that requires all similarly-situated employees (i.e., same occupation, same serious health condition) who take leave for such conditions to obtain and present certification from the employee's health care provider that the employee is able to resume work. The employee has the same obligations to participate and cooperate in providing a complete and sufficient certification to the employer in the fitness-for-duty certification process as in the initial certification process. An employer may require that the fitness-for-duty certification specifically address the employee's essential functions if the employer has provided the employee with a list of those essential functions and notified the employee of the need for a fitness-for-duty certification in the designation notice. Certain managers for an employer, but not the employee's immediate supervisor, may contact a health care provider for purposes of clarifying and authenticating a fitness-for-duty certification. An employer is not entitled to a fitness-for-duty certification for each absence taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule; however, an employee may be required to furnish a fitness-for-duty certificate no more often than once every 30 days if an employee has used intermittent leave during that period and reasonable safety concerns exist.

H. Notice to Employees of Change of 12-Month Period for Determining FMLA Entitlement [29 CFR 825.200(d)(1)]. An employer generally must choose a single uniform method from four options available under the regulations for determining the 12-month period for FMLA leave reasons other than care of a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness (which is subject to a set “single 12-month period”). An employer wishing to change to another alternative is required to give at least 60 days notice to all employees.

I. Key Employee Notification [29 U.S.C. 2614(b)(1)(B); 29 CFR 825.217 -.219 and 825.300(c)(1)(v)]. An employer that believes that it may deny reinstatement to a key employee must give written notice to the employee at the time the employee gives notice of the need for FMLA leave (or when FMLA leave commences, if earlier) that he or she qualifies as a key employee. At the same time, the employer must also fully inform the employee of the potential consequences with respect to reinstatement and maintenance of health benefits if the employer should determine that substantial and grievous economic injury to the employer's operations would result if the employer were to reinstate the employee from FMLA leave. If the employer cannot immediately give such notice, because of the need to determine whether the employee is a key employee, the employer must give the notice as soon as practicable after receiving the employee's notice of a need for leave (or the commencement of leave, if earlier). If an employer fails to provide such timely notice it loses its right to deny restoration, even if substantial and grievous economic injury will result from reinstatement.

As soon as an employer makes a good faith determination—based on the facts available—that substantial and grievous economic injury to its operations will result if a key employee who has given notice of the need for FMLA leave or is using FMLA leave is reinstated, the employer must notify the employee in writing of its determination, including that the employer cannot deny FMLA leave and that the employer intends to deny restoration to employment on completion of the FMLA leave. The employer must serve this notice either in person or by certified mail. This notice must explain the basis for the employer's finding that substantial and grievous economic injury will result, and, if leave has commenced, must provide the employee a reasonable time in which to return to work, taking into account the circumstances, such as the length of the leave and the urgency of the need for the employee to return.

An employee may still request reinstatement at the end of the leave period, even if the employee did not return to work in response to the employer's notice. The employer must then again determine whether there will be substantial and grievous economic injury from reinstatement, based on the facts at that time. If the employer determines that substantial and grievous economic injury will result from reinstating the employee, the employer must notify the employee in writing (in person or by certified mail) of the denial of restoration.

J. Periodic Employee Status Reports [29 CFR 825.300(b)(4)]. An employer may require an employee to provide periodic reports regarding the employee's status and intent to return to work.

K. Notice to Employee of Pending Cancellation of Health Benefits [29 CFR 825.212(a)]. Unless an employer establishes a policy providing a longer grace period, an employer's obligation to maintain health insurance coverage ceases under FMLA if an employee's premium payment is more than 30 days late. In order to drop the coverage for an employee whose premium payment is late, the employer must provide written notice to the employee that the payment has not been received. Such notice must be mailed to the employee at least 15 days before coverage is to cease and advise the employee that coverage will be dropped on a specified date at least 15 days after the date of the letter unless the payment has been received by that date.

L. Documenting Family Relationship [29 CFR 825.122(j)]. An employer may require an employee giving notice of the need for FMLA leave to provide reasonable documentation or statement of family relationship. This Start Printed Page 60089documentation may take the form of a simple statement from the employee, or a child's birth certificate, a court document, etc. The employer is entitled to examine documentation such as a birth certificate, etc., but the employee is entitled to the return of the official document submitted for this purpose.

M. Recordkeeping [29 U.S.C. 2616; 29 CFR 825.500]. The FMLA provides that employers shall make, keep, and preserve records pertaining to the FMLA in accordance with the recordkeeping requirements of Fair Labor Standards Act section 11(c), 29 U.S.C. 211(c), and regulations issued by the Secretary of Labor. This statutory authority provides that no employer or plan, fund, or program shall be required to submit books or records more than once during any 12-month period unless the DOL has reasonable cause to believe a violation of the FMLA exists or is investigating a complaint.

Covered employers who have eligible employees must maintain basic payroll and identifying employee data, including name, address, and occupation; rate or basis of pay and terms of compensation; daily and weekly hours worked per pay period; additions to or deductions from wages; total compensation paid; and dates FMLA leave is taken by FMLA eligible employees (available from time records, requests for leave, etc., if so designated). Leave must be designated in records as FMLA leave and leave so designated may not include leave required under State law or an employer plan which is not also covered by FMLA; if FMLA leave is taken by eligible employees in increments of less than one full day, the hours of the leave; copies of employee notices of leave furnished to the employer under FMLA, if in writing, and copies of all eligibility notices given to employees as required under FMLA and these regulations; any documents (including written and electronic records) describing employee benefits or employer policies and practices regarding the taking of paid and unpaid leaves; premium payments of employee benefits; records of any dispute between the employer and an eligible employee regarding designation of leave as FMLA leave, including any written statement from the employer or employee of the reasons for the designation and for the disagreement.

Covered employers with no eligible employees must maintain the basic payroll and identifying employee data already discussed. Covered employers that jointly employ workers with other employers must keep all the records required by the regulations with respect to any primary employees, and must keep the basic payroll and identifying employee data with respect to any secondary employees.

If FMLA-eligible employees are not subject to FLSA recordkeeping regulations for purposes of minimum wage or overtime compliance (i.e., not covered by, or exempt from, FLSA), an employer need not keep a record of actual hours worked (as otherwise required under FLSA, 29 CFR 516.2(a)(7)), provided that: eligibility for FMLA leave is presumed for any employee who has been employed for at least 12 months; and with respect to employees who take FMLA leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule, the employer and employee agree on the employee's normal schedule or average hours worked each week and reduce their agreement to a written record.

Employers must maintain records and documents relating to any medical certification, recertification or medical history of an employee or employee's family member created for FMLA purposes as confidential medical records in separate files/records from the usual personnel files. Employers must also maintain such records in conformance with any applicable Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) confidentiality requirements; except that: supervisors and managers may be informed regarding necessary restrictions on the work or duties of an employee and necessary accommodations; first aid and safety personnel may be informed, when appropriate, if the employee's physical or medical condition might require emergency treatment; and government officials investigating compliance with the FMLA, or other pertinent law, shall be provided relevant information upon request.

The FLSA recordkeeping requirements, contained in Regulations 29 CFR part 516, are currently approved under OMB control number 1215-0018; consequently, this information collection does not duplicate their burden, despite the fact that for the administrative ease of the regulated community this information collection restates them.

II. Review Focus: The Department of Labor is particularly interested in comments which:

  • Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;
  • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected;
  • Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submissions of responses.

III. Current Actions: The DOL seeks approval for the extension of these information collection requirements that allow covered employers and eligible employees seeking FMLA-qualifying leave to provide third-party disclosures in accordance with the statutory and regulatory requirements discussed herein.

Type of Review: Extension.

Agency: Wage and Hour Division.

Title: The Family and Medical Leave Third Party Disclosures.

OMB Control Number: 1235-0003.

Affected Public: Business or other for-profit; Not-for-profits institutions; Farms; State, Local, and Tribal Government.

Total Respondents: 91.1 million employees.

Total Annual Responses: 51,405,741.

Estimated Total Burden Hours: 19,030,424.

Estimated Time per Response

Employee Notice of Need for FMLA Leave: 2 minutes.

Notice to Employee of FMLA Eligibility and Rights and Responsibilities Notice: 10 minutes.

Medical Certification and Recertification: 20 minutes.

Certification for Leave for a Qualifying Exigency: 20 minutes.

Certification for Leave to Care for Covered Servicemember: 30 minutes.

Notice to Employees of FMLA Designation: 10 minutes.

Fitness-for-Duty Medical Certification: 10 minutes.

Notice to Employees of Change of 12-Month Period for Determining FMLA Entitlement: 1.79336117 seconds.

Key Employee Notification: 5 minutes.

Periodic Employee Status: 2 minutes.

Notice to Employee of Pending Cancellation of Health Benefits: 5 minutes.

Documenting Family Relationship: 5 minutes.

Recordkeeping: 1.25 minutes.

Frequency: As needed.

Total Burden Cost (capital/startup): $0.Start Printed Page 60090

Total Burden Costs (operation/maintenance): $175,684,518.

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Dated: September 22, 2011.

Mary Ziegler,

Director, Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation.

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[FR Doc. 2011-24873 Filed 9-27-11; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4510-27-P