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Employee wants FMLA leave: Can we contact her health care provider?

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in FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

Q. When one of our employees requested FMLA leave, we asked for medical certification of a substantial health condition from her health care provider. We received the form, but cannot read some of the physician’s handwriting and do not understand some of the responses. We also need additional information not requested in the medical certification form.

Having it would help HR administer FMLA leave and possibly accommodate any of the employee’s medical limitations. Can we seek clarification from the health care provider? Can we request the additional information not covered on the medical certification form?

A. Under the new FMLA regulations, an employer is allowed to contact the health care provider to seek clarification, understand the health care provider’s handwriting and understand the meaning of a response. The employer, however, must first obtain consent for this contact from the employee, as required by the HIPAA.

Nevertheless, the FMLA expressly prohibits an employer from asking a health care provider for additional information beyond that required by the medical certification form.

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