This article was published on the United States Department of Labor website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/index.htm.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The FMLA also includes certain military family leave provisions.
The Department of Labor issued a Final Rule on February 25, 2015 revising the regulatory definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).
The Final Rule amends the regulatory definition of spouse under the FMLA so that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live. This will ensure that the FMLA will give spouses in same-sex marriages the same ability as all spouses to fully exercise their FMLA rights.
The effective date for the final rule is March 27, 2015.
Major features of the Final Rule
- The Department has moved from a “state of residence” rule to a “place of celebration” rule for the definition of spouse under the FMLA regulations. The Final Rule changes the regulatory definition of spouse in 29 CFR §§ 825.102 and 825.122(b) to look to the law of the place in which the marriage was entered into, as opposed to the law of the state in which the employee resides. A place of celebration rule allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, or married under common law, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of where they live.
- The Final Rule’s definition of spouse expressly includes individuals in lawfully recognized same-sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States if they could have been entered into in at least one state.
More information on the change as well as FMLA can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/index.htm.
Cities should review applicable leave policies to ensure compliance. If you need assistance or a sample policy contact Andrea Shindlebower.
Weekly HR – Workplace Violence
How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly
Unfortunately, workplace violence does happen. Your job as an employer is to take steps now to prevent it or at least be ready to deal with it in the event that it does happen. You can start preparations by reviewing Violence Free, a global violence prevention firm’s list of seven factors that can lead to workplace violence, which are listed below:
1. A weak, misunderstood or nonexistent policy against all forms of violence in the workplace.
2. Failure to educate managers and supervisors in recognizing early warning signs or symptoms of impending violence and their responsibility to take action.
3. No appropriate and safe mechanism for reporting violent or threatening behavior.
4. Failure to take immediate action against those who have threatened or committed acts of workplace violence.
5. Inadequate physical security.
6. Negligence in the hiring, training, supervision, discipline and retention of employees.
7. Lack of employee support systems.
In addition to being aware of the signs, be sure to address the specific safety needs of all of your city departments. Are your locks, alarms and emergency exits all in working order? Do you have a procedure for preventing unauthorized access to city buildings? Are your walkways, parking lots and other outdoor areas well lit? Can an employee easily signal for help? Be certain to consider preventative measures and safe practices for the following specific situations within your violence prevention policy:
- Exchanging money with the public
- Working with volatile, unstable people
- Working alone or in isolated areas
- Providing services
- Working late at night
- Working in areas with high crime rates
Take the time now to look at your own city. Have you addressed the specific safety needs of all your departments? What do your policies state about workplace violence? Do you even have a policy? Does the policy provide an appropriate mechanism for reporting violent conduct? Are your employees and supervisors trained on your policies? If an employee files a complaint of workplace violence who should handle it? How do you handle it? If you ignore it and say “It couldn't happen here,” you may come to regret that decision.
For policies and training on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.
Weekly HR News – Hiring Practices
Succession planning … What is it and how can it help your city?
I’ve been asked to present on succession planning at the KLC Conference, so after all the research and statistics that I have reviewed I want to give an overview of some of the main points of succession planning and how it can be beneficial to your city.
First, succession planning can help cities prepare for the expected and the unexpected. If you know that an employee will be retiring in the next one to five years, it is a good idea to start transferring some of their knowledge to others that work within the city. And even if you are not expecting an employee to be leaving, it is a good idea to have this process in place for all of your key employment positions.
So what are a city’s key positions? They are the positions that if left vacant could present extreme hardship on the city. For example, a city clerk, city manager, public works director or police chief could be considered a key position. Once you have designated your key positions review the job description for the essential functions and necessary characteristics for that position. Do you have current employees that if brought up to speed could take on those roles? If so, put a plan in place that allows for the transfer of knowledge through training and mentoring.
Having a succession plan in place will not guarantee a successful candidate for the job, but it will put you on better ground while you go through the hiring process. Also important to note, that if your city participates in civil service, the city cannot guarantee a position to any employee, as all potential hires would still have to go through the city’s hiring process. Even if that is the case, cross-training employees is always a good idea.
In some instances there are also statutory requirements for succession planning. Examples of this include emergency management, or the mayor’s absence in the mayor-council form of government and a mayor pro tem in the commission form of government. Being aware of these requirements will help keep you in compliance with the law.
For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has posted an updated version of the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) Handbook for employers. Keep in mind that an employer may be penalized for filing the Form W-2 on which an employees' social security number (SSN) is incorrectly reported. To avoid costly tax penalties, the city as an employer should verify that its employees' names and SSNs are correct by using SSNVS, which is a free online service.
The updated SSNVS Handbook, provides instructions for employer registration and use of SSNVS, and includes new information on the correct use of SSNVS. The Handbook also explains what an employer should do if an SSN fails to verify.
For more information on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main with the KLC Legal Department.
Use of Email in City Government – Handling Employee Affairs
The use of email by government officials often becomes headline news. It is important that city officials and employees keep in mind that emails are like any other public record in that each one, outside of an exception found in KRS 61.878, can constitutes a public record subject to the Open Records Act and the Record Retention Schedule. Misuse of city email not only damages the reputation of the person misusing it, but also greatly damages the reputation of the city and its appointed and elected officials.
As such, cities should have a policy in place that informs employees of what is and is not acceptable. Policies at the least should:
- Advise that the Open Records Act as well as the Department of Libraries and Archives Record Retention Schedule is applicable to the city and its agencies;
- Notify employees that the city monitors email and internet usage, and that employees should have no expectation of privacy, as anything sent out over the communications or computer system could constitute an open record;
- Instruct employees about the proper use of its communications and computer systems (i.e. city use only or whether occasional personal use is permitted); and
- Have an acknowledgement form signed by all employees stating that they have read and understand all the city policies.
No better time than the present for cities to:
- Review, update and redistribute their policies regarding employee use of city e-mail and internet access;
- Remind employees that city resources should only be used for legitimate, business purposes;
- Consider blocking access to certain websites on city-provided computers and internet;
- Reiterate that employees have no expectation of privacy when it comes to their use of city electronic systems.
Also keep in mind that as city email should not be used for personal business, city officials should not use theirpersonal email accounts for city business, since again, they are subject to the Open Records Act as well as the Record Retention Schedule. For more information on this topic see the previous Use of Email in City Government article.
For sample personnel policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter, contact Andrea Shindlebower, Personnel Services Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use of Email in City Government
The use of email, especially personal email, by government officials has become the latest in headline news. Keep in mind that emails are like any other public record in that each one, outside of an exception found in KRS 61.878, can constitutes a public record subject to the Open Records Act and the Record retention Schedule. Because of this, the city must be certain to evaluate each electronic message to see if it fits into an exception and if not to be certain to follow the most recent record retention requirements set out by the Department of Libraries and Archives.
The Attorney General clearly states that public officials should avoid the use of a personal email account to conduct city business. In 2014, the Attorney General stated that using private email accounts is a practice that raises “significant records management and retention issues.” As an alternative to using a private account, the Attorney General states that public agencies can establish “separate email accounts for employees through a free service, such as Gmail, using a common naming convention that identifies” the government (for example, email@example.com). Another alternative is “to set up a single dedicated open records account, using a free service, to which all responsive email maintained on personal accounts could be forwarded, saved, and exported in the event of an open records request.”
In whatever way the city decides to handle email retention, a written policy needs to be in place that delineates the information for all city officials. At the very minimum, the policy needs to address:
- That the Open Records Act as well as the Department of Libraries and Archives Record Retention Schedule is applicable to the city and its agencies;
- That the policy applies to all electronic messages created, received, retained, used or disposed of related to city business or used in the name of the city; and
- User responsibility in regards to retention and disposition of electronic messages.
Deciding which electronic records must be retained is not an easy feat. Electronic records will have to be gathered and a decision made as to whether or not they are exempt based on one of the open records exemptions. More information on how that process works as well as a model policy can be found athttp://kdla.ky.gov/records/recmgmtguidance/Pages/elecrecmgmt.aspx
For additional sample policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter, contact Andrea Shindlebower at firstname.lastname@example.org.