How to Ask for FMLA Recertification and Medcial Documentation,
United States employees working for the government or at private companies with 50 or more people can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for a medical situation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Workers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period only for “qualifying reasons.” The Family Medical Leave Act also allows for leave to be used intermittently given that the medical requirement of leave can best be met via an intermittent or decreased leave schedule.
Asking for Medical Documentation
A company may mandate that a worker asking for FMLA leave submit a medical health validation from a doctor to support the request for unpaid leave. Occasionally, a company can also ask for a recertification of an ongoing leave. The employer should allow a worker a minimum of 15 days to bring back a validation or recertification unless it is not feasible for the worker to do so despite good- faith attempts.
The FMLA validation form should be completely filled out with clear and detailed information. The medical doctor filling out the form should explain the relevant medical condition along with the time the worker will be missing from work and when they will probably come back. All sections should contain consistent information concerning the frequency and period of time of leave and verify the employee’s requirement of leave.
If the initial medical validation shows that the minimum period of time of the condition requires is more than 30 days, a company may ask for an FMLA recertification letter every 30 days regarding the worker’s continued absence.
The worker is still subject to any workplace and attendance policies for time missed that is not authorized under the FMLA. In instances when a company has doubts regarding the form and needs further information from the employee’s medical doctor, the law states that that an employer may pay for a second or third, and binding, medical opinion – as well as periodic recertification of the health condition for leave.
When to Ask for FMLA Recertification Sooner Than 30 Days
Unfortunately, some workers look to take advantage of the FMLA and employers, under the law, can request thorough medical validation or an FMLA recertification letter for long-term absences.
Under the law, a company may ask for FMLA recertification every 30 days at most and only in as it relates to an absence by the worker, unless the medical validation indicates that the minimum period of time of the condition is over 30 days. If the minimum period of time of the validation is for longer than 30 days, a company must wait until that time frame expires before asking for an FMLA recertification. Organizations are always allowed to require recertification every 6 months as long as it coincides with an FMLA-related absence.
There are several exceptions that allow a company to ask for FMLA recertification sooner than 30 days or six months.
The first exclusion is when the worker requests an extension of leave. Should there be a change to the end date of the FMLA leave, an employer can ask for documentation relevant to this change from the worker's physician.
The second exclusion is when conditions explained by the previous validation have changed, such as the period of time of the illness, the character of the illness or other related issues. For instance, if the medical validation on file for the worker states the worker will need time off work once a week for treatment, but the worker now is asking for time off twice a week. In this case, the validation of file does not reflect the current needs of the worker, and the company can ask for a recertification to confirm the need for the added treatment each week.
The third exclusion is when the company receives details about the worker that casts uncertainty on the continued validity of the FMLA leave. This new information can come in the form of status updates or pictures posted to social media.
This new information permits the company to question if a worker is abusing his or her FMLA rights. It should be noted that the company wants to be careful as this situation does not allow for the requirement of an FMLA certification form whenever the worker is absent, but it does permit the company to ask for an update on how often and for how long the worker needs time off of work for medical treatment.
Although company policy cannot mandate workers to turn in an FMLA recertification form for each day they miss work, an employer will want to incorporate a statement into its official policies that it can require a regular FMLA recertification letter for pregnancy or intermittent absence covered under the law.
Dealing with Suspect Attendance
Even when suspicious hasn’t been aroused, a company should ask workers for intermittent FMLA leave give regular FMLA recertification. For workers whose significant health condition is predicted to last less than 30 days, recertification can be expected every 30 days in reference to the employee’s absence.
For workers whose severe health condition is expected to last over 30 days but less than six months, recertification can be expected when the minimum period of the period expires. When a substantial health condition is expected to last over 6 months, recertification can be requested every six months.
Out of an abundance of caution, a company should only ask for recertification in the 30-day or minimum period of time period when the worker requests an extension of leave or when there is an objective good-faith basis to question the validity of leave.
An employer should validate that any suspicious attendance is a pattern before asking for recertification. If a company is asking for FMLA recertification due to a suspect attendance pattern, a supplemental note should be attached to the validation form that recognizes the suspect pattern and asks the medical doctor if the health condition and necessity for leave are in conjunction with the pattern.
To prevent confusion, the employer should develop and adhere to a consistent procedure to figure out when and under what conditions recertification will be necessary.