How to put a stop to FMLA leave abuse

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. I suspect one of the employees in our office is abusing his FMLA leave because he always seems to call off work at the end of the week or around holidays. What options are available to us to deny his suspicious leave requests? —E.L.

A. Under the FMLA, you have the greatest flexibility in limiting an employee’s use of leave during the initial certification phase, when you can use second (even third) opinions from medical providers to detect fraudulent requests.
    Unfortunately, once the initial certification has been granted, your ability to challenge a questionable leave request is limited.
    Under the regulations, your company can request recertification from the employee’s health care provider so long as the recertification is tied to an actual leave request and is not made more than once every 30 days (or until the term of the initial certification/recertification expires).
    With recertification, no second or third opinions are allowed. That means you must take the employee’s doctor at his or her word concerning the need for leave. Nevertheless, the consistent use of recertification can limit abuse by opportunistic employees. 
    Additionally, your company can use covert surveillance to catch abusers of FMLA leave. Typically, an employee who calls off work for a serious health condition should not be able to play golf, chop wood or work an alternate job. Catching the employee performing such activities will often justify termination for benefits fraud.
    The downside to such surveillance is that (a) it should be done only by qualified professionals (i.e., private investigators or off-duty police officers) to ensure compliance with employee’s legal rights; and (b) covert surveillance can be fairly expensive.

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