FMLA’s “mailbox rules” say no to First Class

Everyone loves the U.S. Post Office, they deliver the mail come rain, snow or shine.  Corrupt HR professionals and employees looking to scam FMLA love the Post Office especially.  But recently, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (under Lypyan v. Corinthian College) is putting a stop to the shenanigans by doing away with First Class mail under the “mailbox rules” and requiring employers to send FMLA notices with either a tracking number (registered mail) or by requiring a signature (certified mail).  Certified mail is really the only way to go and any risk management professional worth their salt should be doing this already.

The “mailbox rules” (in the 3rd district)  do not require that you use the U.S. Post Office, so any carrier that can prove they delivered the notice and obtain a signature should do so – just think UPS or FedEx.  Traditionally, employers would mail out notices in First Class mail (just a stamp and your good to go) and pray that the recipient would respond.  But the “mailbox rule” states that the notices will be denied if an employee claims they never received it.  Why you ask?  Because you can’t prove that it ever was sent or received by the correct party.  To prove my point, my father was a U.S. Postal Carrier for 30+ years and one day a letter dropped out of a residents mailbox that was stuck in the pipe for 27 years.  Good thing it wasn’t a mortgage payment.

While registered or certified mail may cost a little more, there are certainly benefits to be had:

  1. You can prove you did your part by sending the notice
  2. You can prove that the employee received the notice
  3. You can send another notice if the employee doesn’t sign or receive the first one
  4. You can end the issue quickly in court if need be

HR professionals who are tasked with sending FMLA notice should take heed of the 3rd Circuit’s ruling and review their notice procedures.

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