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Sniff out suspicious FMLA requests with this 9-step plan

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Issue: Half of all HR professionals say they've approved FMLA requests that they believed weren't legitimate.

Risk: Employees who "work" the system to earn FMLA leave for dubious reasons cost your organization money.

Action: Follow these nine steps to crack down on FMLA fraud. Track the savings, and report them to the top brass.

When presented with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requests, do you sometimes feel that employees aren't giving the true reason? If so, you're not alone. A recent survey says half of HR professionals believe they've approved leave for dubious reasons.

The FMLA Compliance Guide: Practical Advice on Managing Family and Medical Leave

Advice: Don't be such a pushover. Use the legal tools available to spot FMLA fraud. Follow the following nine steps:

1. Obtain a medical certification for leave requests that are due to serious health conditions. It's important that your sick leave or attendance policies require a doctor's note for all absences of three or more days for the leave to be excused. If no such requirement exists and you intend to require paid leave to run concurrent with FMLA leave, you might not be able to require a medical certification.

2. Enforce a policy denying the leave request if an employee fails to submit certification within 15 days. Assess appropriate penalties for failure to be at work.

3. Examine the certification closely. Many doctors will scribble it out in a hurried fashion. In some cases, they'll intentionally leave some sections incomplete to remain "truthful" while accommodating the employee's desires.

If a certification is incomplete, give the employee reasonable opportunity to fix it. If the employee fails to do so or if the certification doesn't describe a "serious health condition," deny the leave request.

4. Require a second opinion if the circumstances are even slightly suspicious and it is an original certification.

5. Once the certification is approved, make a limited inquiry each time the employee requests more leave, particularly in the case of intermittent leave. The goal is to determine whether the leave is for the same qualifying reason.

The FMLA Compliance Guide: Practical Advice on Managing Family and Medical Leave will help you master the 7 issues you must cover — in writing — with an employee requesting FMLA leave, whether you can legally fire someone who is on FMLA leave, and an amazingly simple strategy that prevents employees from taking 24 weeks of back-to-back leave. The FMLA Compliance Guide is guaranteed to give you concrete answers to your most perplexing FMLA questions. Learn More..

6. Watch the schedule of absences closely in cases of intermittent leave to determine whether a suspicious pattern develops (e.g., immediately before and after weekends or days off) or whether there is a change in the frequency or timing.

7. Require accrued leave to run concurrently with FMLA leave when allowed by law. When employees realize that taking leave today will affect future vacation time, they're more likely to take FMLA only when the need is legitimate.

8. Inquire about the intended method of transportation if an employee requests to leave work early because of his or her own serious health condition. If the employee cannot work, perhaps an ambulance is needed.

9. Aggressively pursue potential fraud. If you discover concrete evidence of fraud, take appropriate disciplinary action. Always follow up on reports from fellow employees or other sources that the employee does not, in fact, need leave.

Final note: Even if these actions uncover no fraud, your efforts will still reap dividends. Once employees become aware that you intend to use these tools to detect fraud, employees otherwise inclined to take advantage of the FMLA will wait until a legitimate need arises.


Here are just some of the things you'll learn:
  • An amazingly simple strategy that prevents employees from taking 24 weeks of back-to-back leave
  • How to kick-start the 12-week FMLA meter
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  • The one situation where you can legally deny reinstatement after FMLA leave
  • 4 tests to determine if several closely held companies will trigger compliance with the 50-employee minimum
  • When you can expect to receive money back from an employee on FMLA leave
  • A simple formula for determining if a part-time employee is eligible under the law
  • 7 issues you must cover – in writing – with an employee requesting leave
  • The 3 most important steps you can take to make sure your company is in compliance with the FMLA
  • Whether or not you can legally fire someone who’s away on FMLA leave
  • How to prove you acted in “good faith” and avoid paying a lot in liquidated damages

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