In response to recent rulings and cases, there is a new demand for employers to understand laws regarding leaves of absence and how they can ensure that this can be communicated to their employees effectively.

Fox Rothschild attorney Ian Siminoff will speak on this topic at the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) dinner meeting on Monday, November 14, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Princeton. Tickets are $50. For more information, visit hrma-nj.shrm.org.

His father is an accountant and his mother is his assistant. Siminoff earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and later received a PhD from College of William and Mary Law School. He began by practicing employment law on behalf of management in 1997 and has been the legislative affairs chair for Princeton HRMA since September, 2015.

His practice focuses on representing employers in the courts, as well as providing training and counseling to employers about employment discrimination, family medical leave wage and hour laws and other issues.

“There’s been a lot of recent news about employers and the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) leaves in particular,” Siminoff said. “Recent verdicts and decisions against employers are a very tricky issue to deal with.”

Siminoff added that there has also been recent inaccurate guidance issued to both the FMLA and ADA over the last year that employers have been juggling to straighten out.

Legal context. Employers “need to ensure that they understand how the FMLA and the ADA and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination interact,” Siminoff says. “For example, an individual entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA leave may be entitled to significantly more leave under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the ADA. That’s something that employers do not typically focus on.”

According to Siminoff, employers typically only pay attention to laws individually instead of the ways these laws interact with each other, which is something that can get employers in significant trouble.

Employer road map. HR professionals, business owners, and executives need to know how to manage and properly handle requests for leaves of absence both under the FMLA and the ADA-NJLAD, Siminoff says.

Part of this is understanding the interactive process required for employers to correctly respond to an employee’s request for an accommodation. Siminoff says that this communication and back and forth demands that employers document and correspond with employees and their physicians in order to determine if an accommodation can be offered.

He also has advice for a situation in which no accommodation can be offered:

“How is this translated?” Siminoff says. “It’s best to document this so that there’s a written record for the employer engaged in efforts to reasonably accommodate the employee. It’s very important to keep a written trail, but you want to make sure you know the legal parameters of what is and what is not permitted before you commit something to writing.”

There is an equal problem of employers not understanding the law and not keeping a written trail, Siminoff says. Managers need to learn how to keep proper records within the context of the law.

Simnoff works with clients both in group training and one-on-one with HR or in-house counsel to manage particular cases of leaves of absence and the limits that come with them.

“If they don’t come to me first and there’s an issue, I see the lawsuit about the mishandling,” Siminoff jokes.

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