Ten Years of FMLA Insights

FMLA Rules

The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993 – and today, many employers still find the FMLA rules confusing. It’s no surprise, then, that employers have looked online for guidance regarding this complex rule, scouring everything from government websites to seeking out helpful blogs, such as the highly successful blog written by today’s guest, Jeff Nowak. Jeff is a shareholder with Littler Mendelson, and in 2020, his blog, FMLA Insights celebrated its tenth year, a landmark for any publication! Here, he'll explain:

  • The history of the FMLA Insights blog;
  • The challenges that the FMLA (as well as the ADA and the FFCRA) can pose for HR professionals and In-House Counsels;
  • What it takes to create valuable content after a decade of blogging; and
  • What changes we may face, regarding the FMLA and the FFCRA, in 2021! 
FMLA Rules

Jeff Nowak

  FMLA Insights

“Simply being in existence for 10 years and to continue just helping people 10 years out, through something that I enjoyed doing -- and that's just writing and connecting with people through my writing -- was an awesome thing for me. And, it was inspiring to me and just an exciting milestone as I hit that ten year mark."

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FMLA Insights - The Origins

  • The blog began about 7-8 years into Mr. Nowak’s career in law.
  • Mr. Nowak enjoys issues involving sensitive issues that employers have difficulty dealing with and resolving, specifically issues involving the Family & Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act   
  • Over time he transitioned to more of an advice and counsel practice as opposed to litigation practice.
  • Mr. Nowak found his passion in 2009, as new FMLA amendments and regulations were approved, which provided an opportunity to learn and be of help to clients through the blog.
  • Prior to starting FMLA Insights - the blog, Mr. Nowak began with a podcast by the same name. The goal was to put together a 5-10 minute podcast episode that would cover specific FMLA issues that employers consistently grappled with.
  • In 2009, the podcast transitioned to written word in the form of a blog, where it has grown and become what it is today.
  • The use of a lighthearted tone and a practical medium, Mr. Nowak strived to connect with readers.
  • The use of social media also helped with the rapid growth of the blog, but the main key was the niche nature of the blog - there are very few FMLA specific blogs out there even to this day. 


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FMLA Insights Audience

  • The main audience for the blog is made up of two segments, In-House Counsel and HR Professionals
  • Both In-House Counsel and HR Professionals are the people who can truly take advantage of the blog and what teachings it has to offer

The Feeling of Success

  • FMLA Insights has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Employment blogs for several years.
  • The ABA Journal – the flagship publication of the American Bar Association – named Mr. Nowak and FMLA Insights to their Blogger’s Hall of Fame in 2016
  • Mr. Nowak finds it most satisfying that he has been able to make a genuine connection with people through his blog.

Creating Content

  • Inspiration, often encompassing current events and personal experiences, is the main driver for the content creation process for the blog.
  • The most common new posts are concerning a significant court decision that many clients are currently struggling with or addressing a common issue that readers are raising.
  • Employees or employers “behaving badly” is another source of inspiration for blog posts.
  • Questions from readers are also a great source for creating new content.
    • Employees will often call in looking for help.
    • Clients will also get in contact looking for a specific topic to be covered on the blog. 
  • The initial goal at FMLA Insights was to post a new blog about once a week, but has transitioned to shooting for about 2-3 posts per month. 
  • The value of the blog is that so much content has been posted over the years, questions or topics covered years ago still have applications and relevance today. 
  • Currently, Mr. Nowak has never been busier than when writing about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA),discussing employer and employee paid leave during the pandemic. 

Ten Years of FMLA Insights

  • May 26th, 2020 marked the ten year anniversary of the blog.
  • Mr. Nowak pronounced his Top 10 Tools Employers Can Use to Keep Employees Honest post as the most practical of his ten years authoring the blog. 
  • More than any other topic, readers inquire about intermittent leave.
    • This is a difficult topic for employers to administer and can be susceptible to abuse by employees. 
    • Blog posts concerning intermittent leave tend to be some of the better performing posts even years down the road. 
    • There is an entire subsection of the blog dedicated to intermittent leave.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) posts have also been popular this year.
  • "Simply being in existence for 10 years and to continue just helping people 10 years out, through something that I enjoyed doing -- and that's just writing and connecting with people through my writing -- was an awesome thing for me. And, it was inspiring to me and just an exciting milestone as I hit that ten year mark."

Sustaining the Successful Production of the Blog

  • There are “four pillars” to sustaining success:
  • Passion for the topic is imperative to sustaining a successful blog - or any other medium. For blogging specifically, you must love to write as well. 
  • Perseverance is another key trait to maintaining success.We live in a culture or instant gratification, which does not cater to persevering through difficult times -- but no one is going to become a trusted voice overnight. It takes time and perseverance to reach that goal.
  • Servant leadership is another key aspect. If the end goal is not to help others, it will be incredibly difficult to sustain success. 
  • Practicality is the final key trait. Each and every post must be a practical solution that strives to help others solve relevant problems. 
  • Specifically for blogging, social media is an incredibly important tool for growing your audience. 

Impending Changes in 2021

  • The FFCRA is an interesting topic moving forward.
    • WIll it be extended into 2021?
    • The pandemic is unlikely to be over by January 1st, and employees will likely still need leave to care for themselves or family members who test positive.
  • The issue of childcare will be another topic that we may see some future legislature on. 
    • Employers and employees are often grappling with this issue.
    • The pandemic and remote learning has created even more buzz around this issue and a solution is needed.
    • The FFCRA may “light a fire” under congress to create permanent federal legislation in regard to childcare.
  • Some kind of paid federal leave legislation is also a possibility. 
    • This might create change at the state and local level to cease the “patchwork” legislation that has been created.

Littler-Mendelson & Public Speaking

  • Mr. Nowak is currently a shareholder with Littler-Mendelson.
  • Based in the Chicago office, he generally counsels and litigates on behalf of employers in all areas of employment law, but with a main focus on FMLA and ADA issues. 
  • Littler allows him to call upon experts around the globe in specific areas of employment law to help him best serve his clients. 
  • He often speaks on FMLA and ADA issues, connecting with people via small seminars or conferences.
  • He is involved with the National Employment Law Institute (NELI), one of the leading programs/resources for HR Professionals.
  • Mr. Nowak is also involved with the Disability Management & Employer Coalition (DMEC), where he presents at their events, usually concerning leave of absence. 

Jeff Nowak Backstory


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