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Get tough on vague, incomplete FMLA forms

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Here’s good news for employers trying to manage FMLA leave and prevent abuse: If an employee’s FMLA certification form is incomplete or vague, you don’t have to accept it … you can deny FMLA leave to that person.

Just make sure you give the employee at least seven calendar days to correct deficiencies on the certification form. The law also requires you to notify employees at the time you request certification of the potential consequences of failing to provide adequate certification.

Recent case: When Brian’s mother became sick, he applied for intermittent FMLA leave and submitted an FMLA certification form to his employer. But the form left several questions unanswered, including the length of time he would need to help his mother.

The company asked him to resubmit the form with clear answers. Brian turned in the same form, redated and with the statement “1-5 days weekly for medical treatments and personal needs/care.”

Other questions remained unanswered, so the employer rejected his FMLA request.

Brian sued, alleging interference with his right to take FMLA leave. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit. Brian appealed, but the court again sided with the company.

The reason: As long as employees are given the chance to fix problems on their forms, employers have the right to turn down FMLA leave re­­quests when employees don’t provide the information necessary to evaluate the request. (Porter v. Dona­­hoe, No. 10-1174, 2nd Cir., 2012)

Final tip: Give employees the official FMLA certification form from the Department of Labor (WH-380). That way, there’s no question about which info you can request and the worker must provide.


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