FMLA Notice: What You Will Need from Your Doctor.
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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible workers who are employed by covered organizations to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for stipulated family and medical reasons, with extension of group health insurance coverage and other conditions as if the employee had continued working.
A private company is covered by FMLA is it employs more than 50 workers who all live within 75 miles of the primary worksite. A worker is eligible for leave if they have been employed for at least one year and have worked a minimum of 1,250 works in the past 12 months.
Allowable Company Mandates Under the FMLA
The company may necessitate that the worker furnish a medical validation from a medical doctor to support their need for leave; or in order to tend to a family member’s severe health situation. The FMLA covers a worker to bond with their newborn or a child put into their home through adoption or foster care, and a company does not need a medical FMLA notice of eligibility in these instances.
The company must inform the worker each time a validation is necessary. The employer’s notice must be contained in the written notice of FMLA rights and responsibilities provided to the worker when leave is first asked for. The company may request validation at a later date if it concerns the validity of the leave or its length.
If the company requests medical validation, the worker must provide it within the 15 calendar days following the employer’s FMLA notice unless circumstance do not allow it. The worker is accountable for the cost of the initial medical validation and for ensuring that the validation is supplied to the company correctly and on time. If the validation is incomplete or inadequate, the company must give the worker a written notice declaring the deficiency and how to fix it. The worker must offer the more information to the company within seven calendar days, in most situations.
A validation is deemed “incomplete” if one or more of the relevant entries on the form have not been filled in. It is also regarded as incomplete if the information supplied is vague or unclear.
Information on the medical validation can include: contact data for the medical doctor; the date the significant health condition started and how long it is expected last and only the relevant medical facts on the condition. For leave due to the employee’s own significant health condition, they must turn over documentation showing that they cannot carry out the essential functions of their job. For leave to tend to a family member – a doctor needs to confirm that there is a need for care.
An employee may ask for leave to be broken up into smaller segments if medically necessary. For intermittent leave, the FMLA notice of eligibility should show the medical need for intermittent or decreased schedule leave and either the dates for leave or the frequency and length of expected incapacity due to the medical situation.
If the worker does not offer the requested validation in the time necessary or fails to offer a sufficient validation in spite of the chance to fix any deficiencies, the company may refuse the employee’s FMLA leave request. If the employee’s need for leave lasts outside of a single 12-month period, the company may need the worker to supply a new medical validation in each new FMLA leave year.
Organizations must accept a finished and sufficient medical validation, in any sensible format. In all situations, the information for FMLA notice must be relevant only to the severe health condition for which the worker is seeking leave.
Questioning the FMLA Notice
Once the company has obtained a sufficient and valid FMLA notice, the company may not request more information from the doctor. However, the company may have someone contact the worker’s medical doctor to, for instance, ask the medical doctor if they did indeed complete the form, questions to understand the handwriting on the form or the meaning of a statement. It is crucial that the employer does not have the employee’s direct supervisor contact the employee’s medical doctor.
If the company has obtained a sufficient FMLA notice for leave but has a reason to doubt that the medical opinion is valid, the company may require the worker to obtain a second medical validation. The company can choose the medical doctor to offer the second opinion, but may not select a medical doctor that the company employs on a regular or routine basis.
If the second opinion differs from the original validation, the company may require the worker to obtain a third validation from a professional chosen by both the worker and company. The opinion of the third medical doctor is binding. The company is accountable for paying for the second and third opinions, including any realistic travel expenses for the worker or family member in need of care. While awaiting the second or third opinion, the worker is provisionally eligible for FMLA leave.
In general, the company can ask for FMLA recertification no more often than every 30 days. If a validation states the severe health condition requires leave greater than 30 days, the company must wait until minimum time frame laid out expires before seeking recertification. However, in all cases, including instances when the condition is of an indefinite length of time, the company may request a recertification for time off every six months.
The company may have a policy that mandates workers who take leave to supply a “fitness-for-duty,” validation from a medical doctor that indicates the worker can return to work. The company may ask for a fitness-for-duty validation only with respect to the explicit health condition that triggered the employee’s need for FMLA leave.
If the company requires a fitness-for-duty validation, it must offer notice of that requirement in the rules and regulations laid out for all employees. The fitness-for-duty validation must address the employee’s capacity to do their job and relate only to the condition tied to FMLA leave.