Jeff Nowak

Jeff Nowak is a shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C., the world’s largest employment and labor law practice representing management.  Jeff has decades of experience advising and litigating on behalf of employers on a wide range of complex employment law matters so they can run the most profitable business and efficient operations without being side-tracked by discrimination claims, strikes or other workplace issues.

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Grab a Guinness and let’s celebrate – the ABA’s summary of 2022 FMLA decisions has arrived!

Every spring, the ABA’s Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee publishes a comprehensive report of FMLA decisions handed down by the federal courts in the previous year. Although our little FMLA blog catches some of the key FMLA cases as they occur throughout the year, the ABA’s annual report includes every FMLA decision issued in 2022.

Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

This year’s report was just released and can be accessed here (pdf). I highly recommend it as a valuable FMLA resource for
Continue Reading You Don’t Have to Be Irish to Enjoy This March Treat: The ABA’s Summary of 2022 FMLA Court Decisions Has Arrived!

Every one of us in the HR/employment world has met this moment. Your employee, Tommy, hands you a doctor’s note – usually no more than one sentence long – stating simply:
Tommy’s pinky toe hurts. Based on my medical judgment, Tommy cannot work more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours per week. No overtime advised.
It’s a doctor’s note that causes HR directors everywhere to wince.

So, what’s the impact of this doctor’s note? Can an employee use a “NO OVERTIME” doctor’s note to take FMLA leave whenever he’s assigned overtime? Or can we rely on the
Continue Reading Is an Employer Required to Provide FMLA Leave Indefinitely to an Employee Who Cannot Work Overtime?

Happy 30th birthday, you wonderful old FMLA! 

Break out the band aids and ace bandages! It’s time to celebrate a special birthday for our favorite federal statute.

All weekend, I’ve been singing Harry Styles’ song “As It Was” to the Nowak kids:

You know it’s not the same without medical leaveIn this world, it’s just FMLA. . .

And as predictable as my god-awful FMLA songs are, we even broke out the 30th birthday cake last night in honor of the FMLA.

Where Have We Been, Where are We Going?

In all seriousness, as our world comes out of a
Continue Reading Happy 30th Birthday, FMLA! Where Do We Go from Here?

File this in your “Sometimes, People are Really Awful” folder.

The story is a very simple one.

An associate working at a Cleveland law firm – we’ll call her Sue to protect the innocent – returned from maternity leave.

Should have been a relatively happy time, yes? Hugs all around, maybe even some donuts, but at least a kind word and a thoughtful check in with Sue on how parenthood was going, right?

Not this story.

A few days after her return, Sue informed the firm’s brass that she would be resigning to work elsewhere.

In response, she got a
Continue Reading When an Employee Returns from FMLA Leave, Don’t Be This Employer

We’ve reached the end of yet another year. I hope it was wildly successful for your organization.

Are you ready to pay out year-end bonuses?

Or perhaps instead you want to offer a pay incentive to employees to improve attendance or production?  Take, for instance, a point-based attendance bonus policy in which employees are assessed points for every tardiness or absence (even for FMLA or ADA-covered leave), which, in turn, disqualifies an employee from receiving the incentive.

In these situations, can an employer disqualify an employee from the bonus or incentive?

In short, Yes.

Under trusty Section 215 of the FMLA regulations
Continue Reading It’s the End of the Year. May an Employer Legally Deny a Bonus to an Employee After Taking FMLA Leave?

This February, the Family and Medical Leave Act turns 30, and I am throwing a THREE-day party to celebrate!
A party where you and I spend NINE hours together over THREE straight days discussing nothing but the F-M-L-A.
In this interactive training course, I will help you master the critical components of the FMLA, and dare we say, the content might even get you a wee bit excited about administering the FMLA.
You read that correctly: Get ready to be FMLA-energized!
Using case studies (and perhaps a bit of humor), I will help you master the FMLA from beginning to end!  I
Continue Reading As the FMLA Turns 30, Join Me for a Three-Day Party to Celebrate: An FMLA Master Class (2023 edition)

One of the best parts of my job is the chance to talk shop with other employment attorneys who, like me, work in the trenches with employers to help them comply with the FMLA and ADA.
So, when my friend Eric Meyer reached out to me to join him last Friday to share some practical advice to employers in navigating the rough waters of the FMLA and ADA, I was intrigued.  Add to the discussion another friend, Daris Freeman (AVP and counsel at Unum), and I couldn’t pass it up.
Listen to any or all of our zoom discussion
Continue Reading Need a Few Hacks and Cheat Codes to Survive the FMLA and ADA? Click Here

Yeah, I get it. He’s taller than me. Significantly taller.
Ever since my son, Luke, was a wee lad, we dreamed of going on a major league baseball road trip together.
Baseball runs through our veins, so after years of dreaming, 2022 was our year.  Since the beginning of this year, we’ve been plotting, planning and scheduling the trip of a lifetime.
Just a few weeks ago, Luke and I made our way from Chicago to the east coast to catch major league baseball games at six different stadiums – Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, New York (Mets and Yankees).  Then,
Continue Reading What Does a Baseball Road Trip Teach Us About Bugging an Employee While They Take FMLA Leave?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the FMLA questions are coming fast and furious: Can an employee take FMLA leave to obtain and recover from an abortion? What if the abortion is elective? And now that abortion will be illegal in at least some states, is travel to another state to obtain an abortion covered by FMLA?

Oddly enough, the Department of Labor has never provided meaningful guidance on these specific questions. Nevertheless, it seems apparent that the FMLA covers abortion and travel to obtain an abortion.

Let me explain.

Is abortion covered by the FMLA?
Continue Reading Does the FMLA Cover Abortion and Travel to Obtain an Abortion?

Can an employer violate the FMLA even though it never denies an employee’s request for FMLA leave?
Ask Salvatore Ziccarelli, who we’ll call Sal for short. Sal worked for the Sheriff as a corrections officer in my backyard, Cook County, Illinois.
Over the course of 27 years working for the Sheriff, Sal developed a number of health conditions, including work-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Sal took quite a bit of FMLA leave over time, and as of September 2016, he already had used more than two-thirds of the 12 weeks he was allotted for FMLA. So, when he lined up to
Continue Reading Employers: Warn Your Employers to Stop Saying Stupid Stuff in Response to an Employee’s Request for FMLA Leave!

The client calls are a regular part of my everyday, increasingly so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stress. Anxiety. Depression.
The causes are as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Simply put, a growing number of our employees are dealing with serious mental health issues that render them unable to come to work. It’s our new reality, and as employers, we need to know how to manage and support our employee during these difficult times.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance reminding us that the FMLA covers situations when an employee’s mental health condition inhibits them from working.
Continue Reading A Key to FMLA Success: Supporting our Employees as Mental Health Issues Arise

Luke and White Sox closer, Liam Hendriks
I love baseball.

I love the sport so much that, in the Nowak family, we are taught that America’s favorite pastime was formed in the story of Creation somewhere between the placement of the stars and Adam’s rib.

As a lifelong Chicagoan, I long for spring as a survival tactic after a long winter.

And with spring comes spring training.  Last week, I enjoyed a little slice of baseball heaven, as our family traveled to Arizona, in part, to catch a few days of spring training. The crack of the bat, the pop
Continue Reading What Can Baseball Teach Us about the FMLA?

They’re baaaaaack!

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor announced that it would ramp up FMLA audits (as well as wage and hour audits generally) on employers, particularly those in the warehouse and logistics industries.

Noting the increased demand and the constraints on the global supply chain “have combined to place enormous strain on the nation’s warehouse and logistics industries,” the DOL seemingly thinks its best move is to further burden these industries with intrusive FMLA and wage and hour audits.

Thanks for nothing, Secretary Walsh.

Does this all sound familiar?

Back in 2014, you may recall that the DOL
Continue Reading DOL Announces Ramped-Up FMLA Audits for Employers in Select Industries

Hey, thanks for hitting on that clickbait!
Now that you’re here, let me tell you the story of Antonio Brown, soon-to-be former football player for  the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This past Sunday, Brown engaged in a verbal spat on the sidelines with the Buc’s head coach, Bruce Arians, over whether he should play in the game.
Brown twice refused to go into the game. When he refused the second time, the coach reportedly told him to “get out.”
In a bizarre next couple of moments, Brown proceeded to rip off his shoulder pads and jersey, tossing them on the bench
Continue Reading Should Bucs’ Wide Receive Antonio Brown Been Offered FMLA Leave Instead of Getting Canned?

It arrived. Finally.

For those of us who have poured over the 490 glorious pages of OSHA’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers across America to get their employees vaccinated, our collective heads are spinning this morning.

This is a leave law blog so, of course, I’ll give you everything you need to know about the leave you’re now required to provide your employees so they can obtain a COVID-19 vaccine or test.

Before I do, however, humor me while I gush for a moment about several of my Littler colleagues who have led our vaccination triage team, keeping the
Continue Reading Under the ETS, What Paid Leave Must an Employer Provide an Employee to Obtain a COVID-19 Vaccine or Test?

The ink had not even dried on my blog post last week (calling federal paid leave a possibility) when a federal paid leave bill pending in the House was declared dead.
Fast forward to yesterday, when news outlets began reporting that federal paid leave may not be dead after all.
Catching every one of us off guard yesterday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inserted paid leave back into the House version of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” infrastructure package.
The problem for Speaker Pelosi? Her pitch for paid leave faces near certain rejection in the Senate, where one
Continue Reading Has Federal Paid Leave Been Resurrected from the Dead? Pelosi-backed Legislation Needs a Lifeline to Survive