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Column: Rule changes alter human resources landscape

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There are plenty of new developments to keep up with in human resources management with recent clarifications affecting issues including family leave and immigration.

Here’s a quick look at a few key issues.

Family and Medical Leave Act
The U.S. Department of Labor clarified the definition of son or daughter under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the act, a qualified employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave within a 12-month period for the birth and/or care of a child, care of a child with a serious health condition and placement of a child into the employee’s family by adoption or state foster care.

The child must be younger than 18 years of age unless there is a mental or physical disability prohibiting self care. The child is defined as a legal ward; a biological, adopted, foster or stepchild; or a child of a person who houses, clothes and feeds the child.

The latter aspect of the child definition has always meant a person who has put himself in the situation of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incident to the parental relation without going through the formalities necessary to legal adoption. The definition was recently clarified by the DOL to ensure employers provided FMLA leave to staff members who are not legal or biological parents. This will include grandparents, other family members, unmarried partners and same-sex partners.

Businesses may inquire whether the worker’s relationship with the child qualifies for FMLA leave by mandating reasonable documentation or a written statement regarding the association.
However, the DOL has noted that a worker is only obligated to supply a simple statement “asserting the requisite family relationship exists ... when there is no biological relationship.”

Companies may need to adjust FMLA policies and/or provide training to ensure everyone understands the clarifications to the law.

Form requirements
There also have been recent changes regarding W-2 and I-9 forms for employees.

Originally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required organizations to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored health coverage on W-2s for taxable years beginning after Dec. 31 of this year. Recently, the Internal Revenue Service issued a notice that the reporting requirement is not mandatory for W-2s issued for 2011.

A change brought by the Immigration Reform & Control Act requires employers to complete I-9 forms for all new hires within three days of the start date. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement received funding to hire additional agents and provided warning of increased I-9 investigations.

The list of acceptable documents for I-9 completion is available at It’s important to make sure documents seem reasonably genuine and to make copies of those documents. Ultimately, the company is responsible for accuracy on I-9 forms, so verify correct completion of the employee section, and file I-9 forms and supporting documents separate from the employee’s personnel file.

Disability leave
In October, the Office of Disability and Employment Policy released an online return-to-work toolkit for employers and employees at

The toolkit reviews relevant disability and discrimination laws, as well as medical and disability-related laws to help businesses navigate myriad responsibilities after an employee’s disability-related leave of absence.

With so many changes to keep in mind, take advantage of online resources and study new requirements to stay ahead of the curve.

Lynne Haggerman, M.S., is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, a Springfield firm specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at
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