Q. An employee recently has contracted a serious health condition for which she requests. The medical certification form, completed by her physician, does not indicate the probable duration of her condition. Can we suspend the employee for the physician’s failure to submit a sufficiently complete medical certification form?
A. No, employers should not take any adverse employment action against an employee because of an incomplete medical certification form. The employer must provide the employee a reasonable opportunity to cure any deficiency in the certification. You can do this by giving the employee oral and written notice of the medical certification deficiency and a time frame to rectify the certification form.
If the employee does not cure the deficiency in the allotted time, you will have cause to investigate the condition for bad-faith misconduct by the employee that justifies adverse employment action. In other words, if she doesn’t provide the information to justify her request, you probably have reason to suspect she’s trying to get leave when she isn’t really entitled to it. That’s dishonest.
Before you take action, however, make sure it’s not just an honest mistake. Maybe she didn’t realize her medical condition didn’t qualify for leave. Plus, she may have a disability covered by the ADA, even if that disability isn’t a serious health condition under the FMLA. That can happen, for example, if a condition substantially limits a major life function, such as walking, but doesn’t require time off work.