To most people, the Family Medical Leave Act, aka FMLA, shines as an example of civilizes society—a safety net that allows employees the scope to care for an ailing parent or address debilitating health problems without falling into unemployment. It’s there to protect the interests of the single parent with a sick child, the woman in the midst of a complicated pregnancy, or the cancer patient suffering the side-effects of chemotherapy. However, there are those employees who may engage in FMLA abuse
Sadly, however, a number of employers find themselves at the mercy of the darker side of FMLA. Their plight is not a reflection of a poorly designed initiative, but rather of a creed of employee who feels entitled to abuse that very safety net—leaving the company that provides their paycheck to take the hit, and perhaps even the security of those who need FMLA the most, too.
In certain cases, an FMLA abuse red-flag may be raised by rumors, but the company could find that it still doesn’t have much room to maneuver. This might occur in the case of absences that don’t quite align with medical diagnoses or certifications, those that fall across holidays or either side of weekends, or those encompassing invisible chronic illness that is hard to quantify or measure. In this instances, corporate investigations into FMLA abuse can be delicate to navigate, with poor execution drawing substantial costs of even litigation. When such complexity arises, support from a private investigator who is well versed in FMLA abuse investigations can save both losses and heartache.
The Far-Reaching Tendrils of Endemic FMLA Abuse
A trusting employer may well find themselves asking: why would anyone jeopardize their position for a few falsified days off? In reality, there are many reasons why people justify FMLA abuse to themselves, including a desire for more leisure time or wanting to earn more money by working a second job in parallel.
Some, however, can be indicative of the need to raise the investigative alarm, such as reactive abuse in times of pending workforce reductions, or after the limiting of working hours. Employees who feel undervalued or mistreated may be more likely to abuse the support systems available to them, while those realizing that their colleagues are engaging in all manner of workplace misconduct or abuse may feel drawn to follow the crowd. Fundamentally, FMLA abuse can become a morale-trashing and disruptive presence that triggers a cascade of detrimental impacts.
The Challenges of Tracking FMLA Abuse and What You Can Do
Protections outlined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mean that even the most on-the-ball HR department is restricted in terms of what personal medically-related questions they can ask in an FMLA abuse investigation, and the wrong actions can draw legal ramifications. Employers can seek recertification, but the frequency of this practice is also somewhat limited, leaving scope for unproven fraud to run rampant.
A company might also take up the opportunity to seek independent medical exams, as provided for under FMLA legislation. But, this can be a costly process, and may still not get to the bottom of the issue. For many businesses, a far more affordable and effective solution is to engage a corporate investigations firm, who can discreetly carry out specialist surveillance and intelligence gathering within the scope of the law, with the company’s integrity in mind.
The process of achieving the necessary empowerment to deny job restoration to an FMLA abuser requires finesse, but with an expert on hand, companies and organizations of any scale can navigate this process with confidence. Such support will assure informed guidance through case monitoring, navigating communication correctly, and in identifying available paths in the pursuit of due process—as well as expert testimony in the case that FMLA abuse investigations arrive before a judge.
Stop the Rot: Preventing the Spread of FMLA Abuse
The idea to abuse the FMLA system can spread at an alarming pace if employers fail to draw a clear line in the sand—or to forge an environment that fosters values like shared responsibility and the pursuit of excellence among staff. In contrast, when corporate culture is blossoming, the temptation to abuse company resources is reliably diminished. Employers can achieve this bountiful prosperity by engaging pro-actively in periodic corporate culture audits.
By being ahead of any unhealthy workplace patterns and working from a clear plan that constantly moves the needle towards envisioned potential, the risk of FMLA abuse, workplace discrimination, corporate theft—and more—can be kept on the back foot. If you require the assistance of corporate investigations services targeting FMLA abuse or want to know more about how auditing can help keep your company thriving, why not contact the Lauth Investigations team today for a no-obligation quote.