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Give employees a chance to fix FMLA forms

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Before you approve or reject an employee’s FMLA request, the law allows you to request a medical certification from the employee.

That certification must have some specific things, including:

  (1) the date on which the serious health condition began

  (2) the probable duration of the condition

  (3) relevant medical facts

  (4) a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of her position

  (5) the dates and duration of any planned medical treatment

  (6) the expected duration of the intermittent leave.

But what if a certification is missing one or more of the requirements? Don’t instantly turn down the request. You must give the employee at least seven workdays to get clarification. Otherwise, you risk an FMLA interference lawsuit.

Recent case: When Deborah suffered from shortness of breath, she got her doctor to certify that she needed intermittent FMLA leave for up to two days per week for one month. She then missed several days of work. Her employer terminated her, reasoning that the certification was invalid because it did not describe a serious condition.

Deborah sued, alleging FMLA interference. She argued that if her employer didn’t find the certification complete, it should have asked her for more info and given her time to fix any claimed problems. The court agreed. (Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, No. 14-1772, 3rd Cir., 2015)

The lesson: Don’t turn down an FMLA request based on an incomplete medical certification. Instead, follow the regulations that give employees seven days to come forward with a complete certification.

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