Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), qualified workers employed by covered employers can take job-protected, unpaid leave for defined medical, family, or personal reasons. The employer may require a certification from a health care provider to verify the worker’s requirement for FMLA leave for the employee’s or his or her covered family member’s serious health condition. The employer may not ask for a certification for leave to bond with a child placed for foster care or adoption or a newborn child.
Determining the Need for the FMLA Medical Certification
The employer must inform the worker each time it requires a certification. The employer is obligated to include the notice in the written FMLA rights and responsibilities information sheet provided to the employee when leave is initially requested. The employer may ask for a certification at a later date if it challenges the duration or appropriateness of the leave.
What to Include in the FMLA Medical Certification
The FMLA leave law does not dictate the use of a particular certification form. However, if an employer chooses to use a form of its own, it may not ask for any additional details beyond what the FMLA and its regulations specify. Information on the certification may only cover the following:
- Contact details for the health care provider
- Relevant medical facts concerning the condition
- Date the serious health condition started and anticipated duration
- A statement of the care that is necessary for a covered family member
- Details of the medical necessity for reduced or intermittent work schedule leave
- Information explaining why the employee cannot perform the essential duties of the position
- Dates of any planned time off or the estimated duration and frequency of expected incapacity as a result of the condition
Employers have to accept a complete and satisfactory medical certification, despite the format.
Authenticating the FMLA Medical Certification
After the employer receives an appropriately completed and adequate certification, it may not ask for any additional details from the health care provider. However, a management official, human resources professional, another health care provider, or leave administrator may contact the health care provider for clarification or to authenticate the certification. For instance, the employer’s delegate may ask health care providers if the details included in the report were authorized or completed by them or ask questions to interpret the meaning of a response or decipher handwriting on the form. Under no condition should the employee’s direct manager communicate with the worker’s health care provider.
Recertification of the FMLA Medical Certification
The employer may ask for a recertification every 30 days in connection with an employee’s absence, but no more frequently. However, in all instances, such as cases where the condition’s duration is indefinite, the employer may ask for a recertification every six months. In most cases, the employer has to give the worker a minimum of 15 calendar days to present the recertification to the employer. If the worker does not supply the recertification within the time required or fails to provide a satisfactory recertification despite the opportunity to include what is lacking, the employer may deny the request for FMLA leave. A recertification can be requested in less than 30 days only in the following situations:
- The worker requests an extension of the leave
- The conditions specified in the current certification are significantly different
- The employer has doubt about the worker’s stated reasons for the leave or the ongoing validity of the current medical certification
The employer may only request the same details in a recertification as those allowed in the first medical certification. An employer may give the health care provider a history of the worker’s absences to determine if the serious health condition and requirement for leave are consistent with the leave pattern. The employer cannot ask for second or third opinions for a medical recertification.
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