You’ve met her. Her name is Darlene. She’s in HR. She’s a stickler for rules. She’s definitely not the party-planner HR-type. Darlene denies requests that do not come on forms completed perfectly. (She actually gets quite huffy about it.) In fact, lawyers have taught Darlene that her way is the best way. In the time of COVID-19, Darlene is about to experience an awakening. She’s not gonna like it.
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employees can request paid sick leave and/or expanded FMLA in any way they can. In its regulations, the Department of Labor has explicitly said that an employee can request leave orally. Employees do not need to ask for a leave in writing. (The IRS has some things to say about this, but…)
So, do you need a form? No. Should you have a form? Not if you’ve got a Darlene working for you because she’s going to deny the leave if she doesn’t get the form filled out just the way she wants it. Here are the reasons to say no to forms:
- Not all employees have printers at home
- Not all employees have computers at home to complete forms
- Completing a form might be difficult for some employees
- Requiring a form creates a hoop that an employee has to jump through to get the leave and therefore could be considered interference with the leave
- If DOL says an oral request is sufficient, then you can’t require a form (worth repeating)
I know what you’re thinking, “But Kate, how am I going to have evidence if they ever sue me?” Don’t worry. I didn’t say you weren’t going to have evidence. I said you shouldn’t have a form. Instead, let’s have a checklist that HR or whoever is responsible for HR stuff to go through to make sure they have everything they need, like healthcare provider names, kids’ names and ages, and dates. Having a conversation back and forth with an employee to get this information – whether it is over email or text message – is going to get you all the documentation you need. You can even use your old faithful friend, Microsoft Excel, to track the information and document where the information is. Really. An email string or a text chain is going to be enough.
Tomorrow, April 10 at 10 AM CDT, I’m going to go through a bunch of scenarios where employees need leave. I’ll walk you through my checklists, how to document the leave for IRS purposes, and even give you the tracking spreadsheet. No registration necessary. Just log in here: Kate’s COVID Webinar. The password is 813056.
Until tomorrow, don’t be like Darlene.