The right way to collect proof of FMLA need

To help you decide whether an illness or injury rises to the level of a serious condition that triggers the need for FMLA leave, you can require employees to provide FMLA medical certification. Essentially, that’s a doctor’s note that lays out the facts of the ailment.

But what happens if employees use that initial FMLA certification to take intermittent leave in a suspicious pattern? You can seek recertification to verify the continuing need for leave.

The law says you can request recertification “on a reasonable basis.” If the certification form doesn’t specify a time limit, you can typically request recertification no more than once every 30 days. (Find a sample certification form, Form WH-0380, at

Key point: If you suspect FMLA-leave abuse, you can ask for recertification more frequently. For example, a U.S. Labor Department opinion letter says that a pattern of Friday and Monday absences counts as information that casts doubt on the employee’s stated FMLA need.

That means you can seek recertification more frequently than every 30 days, as long as the request is made in connection with an absence.


Follow these four certification tips:

1. Ask about the specific condition. Medical certification must relate only to the serious health condition that’s causing the leave. You can’t ask about general health or other conditions.

2. Give 15 days to respond. After you request certification, give employees at least 15 calendar days to submit the paperwork. If employees’ certification is lacking, notify them and give them reasonable time to correct it.

3. Investigate the certification if you doubt the need for leave. A health care provider representing your company can call the employee’s physician to clarify the medical certification (if the employee gives you permission).

4. Require (and pay for) a second opinion, if you’re still not convinced. Use an independent doctor whom you select, but not a doctor who works for your company.

If the two opinions conflict, you can pay for a third and final binding medical opinion.