Employees are entitled to use family and medical leave to care for their own serious health condition, the serious health condition of a family member, and other qualifying reasons.

General Information

Supervisors should review and refer to the following information:

Supervisor Course

Human Resources facilitates a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Training for Supervisors. This course is mandatory for all supervisors.

Key Supervisor Responsibilities


The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) specifically says that a direct supervisor cannot have access to the underlying medical reasons for a family and medical leave request. Supervisors should never ask employees about the reason for a family and medical leave request. Ensuring this confidentiality protects both employees and supervisors.

Sometimes an employee will choose to share the reason for their family and medical leave with their supervisor or some of their co-workers. In those cases, the supervisor should still maintain confidentiality and never discuss these reasons with other employees.

Offering Family and Medical Leave Paperwork

When an employee is using sick leave frequently or there is a change in their sick leave use, they may be eligible for family and medical leave.

Employers are legally required to make a reasonable effort to determine whether an employee’s absence might be covered by FMLA. It is very important that you recognize when an employee may need to apply and that you provide the necessary information. You should never ask about the employee’s specific situation, but give general information.

For example, you could tell an employee the following: “If your sick leave use is due to a serious medical condition or family situation covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you should fill out an application for Family Medical Leave right away. Applications and assistance are available from the Human Resources Department. Applications are also available on EmployeeNet.”

Supervisors should never tell an employee whether they are eligible for FMLA or not. Instead, the employee should be referred to the application process.

Sometimes an employee does not want to apply for family and medical leave, even if they are off work for an extended period of time. Contact Human Resources to discuss the situation. In some cases, the time can be tracked as family and medical leave without an application. This can be done even if the employee has sick leave available.

Tracking Family and Medical Leave

After HR has approved family and medical leave under either the Federal or Wisconsin FMLA, it is the department’s responsibility to track the amount of leave an employee is using. If an employee calls in sick, and that employee has an family and medical leave application approved, the employee should report whether the absence is covered by their family and medical leave request.

If the employee does not offer this information, the supervisor can ask, “Is this related to your family and medical leave?” The supervisor should never ask the specific medical reason for an employee’s sick leave or about the nature of the absence.

Even if an employee has an approved family and medical leave, the employee must still follow normal call-in procedures that the department has established or the employee will be subject to discipline for failing to follow the proper notification procedures, and the employee may not be allowed to substitute paid leave for that absence.

Departments must develop a way to track family and medical leave time for their employees. Tracking becomes extremely important when an employee is taking intermittent leave as the leave occurs over a long period of time.

This provides a record of the amount of time used, the reason the employee gave when calling in, and a running total of the family and medical leave time. A way to track the leave is to set up a spreadsheet to track the time, like this:



Leave Type







Called in- FMLA





Left early- FMLA





In late- FMLA

Whether a spreadsheet is used or some other tracking method, it is imperative that departments have some methodology in place for keeping track of this leave time.

Departments need to track employee family and medical leave use because the department is responsible for informing an employee when they are out of family and medical leave time. As an employee gets close to exhausting their family and medical leave balance, the supervisor should tell the employee that the family and medical leave balance is running out and discuss with the employee what requirements may be imposed when the employee runs out of family and medical leave time. Note: Employers are not allowed to require employees to substitute paid leave while on WI FMLA.

An HR Approval form may indicate that an update is required with a date. If that date approaches and a department has not heard from HR that the medical information has been received, they should check in with HR. HR will determine whether a department should continue to allow the employee to use family and medical leave.

When Supervisors Suspect Misuse

As a supervisor you may suspect misuse or notice unusual patterns in how the leave is taken. For example, maybe the employee always calling in or scheduling their leave on Fridays. If you are concerned about misuse, notify the FMLA coordinator in Human Resources.

Remember that the underlying medical reasons for an employee's family and medical leave are confidential, including from supervisors. Some patterns you observe could have a medical reason. Human Resources will follow up if there are concerns about misuse, and supervisors should never try to investigate patterns or discuss them with the employee. This could create a situation where an employee using family and medical leave feels pressured to share personal medical information to justify their absence.