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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 16, 2009

FMLA policy and process changes are on the way

by Paula Van Brocklin

If you're an employee planning to take job-protected time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or you're a supervisor managing employees considering the same, listen up. The federal government is making some changes to FMLA that go into effect Jan. 16. The federal policy has been changed to reflect new regulations and redesigned to provide definitions of terms. ISU's FMLA request process also is changing.

Policy changes

Qualifying events for FMLA remain the same, such as the birth and care of a child or an employee's diagnosed serious health condition (for a complete list of qualifying events, go to the online policy library,). However, FMLA now provides for a leave of up to 26 weeks in a 12-month period to care for an immediate family member who has sustained an injury or illness during duty with the armed forces. In addition, leave may be granted for an employee who is experiencing an urgent need following an immediate family member's call to active duty in the armed forces.

Process changes

For most employees, the biggest FMLA changes may be in the process itself. For example, the federal government loosened its restrictions on the number and types of questions that employers may ask doctors regarding an employee's leave request.

"The health certification form, which goes to the employee's health care provider, asks more specific questions so that we can better determine if the event appropriately meets the qualification," said Kristi Darr, manager of employee and labor relations.

The government also shortened employers' timelines to comply with FMLA leave requests. This change prompted human resource services to manage ISU's FMLA requests through employee and labor relations instead of the benefits office.

"The benefits office will continue to provide support for staff with questions regarding their benefits during FMLA leave," Darr said. "Employee and labor relations will ensure that the university has a consistent application of the FMLA policy."

Darr said the centralized process will be a welcome change for supervisors, who have been responsible for managing FMLA requests. Now, supervisors should call employee and labor relations when an employee needs to take FMLA leave. Employee and labor relations will contact the employee, provide the appropriate forms and manage the process.

"But the supervisor still will play a vital role in identifying when an employee has a potential FMLA situation, tracking FMLA absences and communicating with the employee regarding time off and returning to work," Darr said.

More information

Human resource services plans to mail a letter by the end of January to all FMLA-eligible employees' homes explaining the changes. In addition, a Q&A will be posted on the HRS web site beginning Jan. 26. For additional questions, contact employee and labor relations at 4-3753.


Federal changes to the Family Medical Leave Act, effective Jan. 16, result in process and policy updates for ISU employees.