Require employees to show FMLA proof before their leave

Issue: When must employees provide proof of their need for FMLA leave?

Benefit: You can require employees to provide proof when they request the leave.

Action: Don't be bullied by employees who want to provide after-the-fact proof. Require them to show their cards upfront.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employees to give notice of their reasons for leave. Your organization, then, has the right to deny leave when the provided information fails to reach the threshold for legitimate FMLA leave (childbirth, serious medical condition, etc.).

But, as the following case shows, em-ployees must explain their full reason for leave when they make the request, not later down the line. Employees can't hold you over a barrel by requesting leave on insufficient grounds and then, after the leave is denied, showing up with new proof.

FMLA Compliance D

Recent case: Steve Aubuchon's wife was pregnant and past her due date, so he told his employer that he'd be taking FMLA leave.

When he submitted his FMLA paperwork, he didn't indicate that his wife had a "serious health condition" or pregnancy-related complication prior to giving birth, as required by the FMLA for pre-birth leave. So the organization denied the leave and fired him for absenteeism.

Soon after he was fired, Aubuchon submitted a doctor's note stating that his wife, in fact, did have pregnancy-related complications. The company refused to reverse the firing, so Aubuchon sued.

A federal appeals court tossed out his FMLA case. Reason: Aubuchon failed to put his employer on notice that his wife had complications covered by the FMLA. The court said he couldn't "fix" that after the fact because "employees should not be encouraged to mousetrap their employers." (Aubuchon v. Knauf Fiberglass, No. 03-1382, 7th Cir., 2004)