The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it will again issue opinion letters to assist employers and employees in interpreting laws like the FMLA and Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL has even established a new webpage to submit requests for opinion letters and to review old opinion letters.
Sweet Baby Jesus! I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. Oh DOL, I could plant a big, wet kiss on you right now! And that says a lot, since it’s not often I want to kiss you.
In announcing the agency’s decision, Secretary Acosta put it plain and simple:
Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes . . . The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.
As you may recall, the Obama Administration did away with opinion letters, replacing them with a mysterious, bureaucratic process in which it infrequently published “Administrator Interpretations,” which frankly, consisted of more political mumbo jumbo on mundane, tangential topics than practical guidance for employers. Though opinion letters were limited in nature, they addressed real life situations and provided some reasonable guidance on which employers could rely in addressing day-to-day FMLA and other employment law issues.
Oh goodness, what will I choose as my first love letter to DOL? Perhaps I’ll ask how long is a second opinion good for? Or whether employers ask for a second medical certification where it’s clear the employee is treating with a specialist? Or maybe at what point can we terminate an employee when the employee fails to return timely medical certification? And surely this one: When recertification undermines an employee’s (mis)use of FMLA, how far back can you deny FMLA leave? Or maybe one of my deep thoughts: Why doesn’t the DOL recognize undue hardship under FMLA?
The possibilities are endless! Which one should I choose first?
This guy is open for business if you want to request an FMLA opinion letter from the DOL. Catch me while I’m giddy — I might offer you a two-for-one deal.