The US Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new Opinion Letter last week prohibiting employers from delaying the designation of Family & Medical Leave. Citing the FMLA, the DOL letter states that when an eligible employee communicates a need for leave for an FMLA-qualified reason, neither the employee nor the employer may decline FMLA protection. Once the employer has enough information to determine a leave is taken for a qualified reason, the employer has 5 business days to provide a written “designation notice” to the employee. Failing to do so may constitute interference with the employee’s FMLA rights in violation of the law. DOL instructed that employers cannot allow an employee to use paid leave or other leave before designating the qualified leave as FMLA leave. The agency at the same time released another opinion letter addressing compensability of time spent participating in employer-sponsored community service programs.