Is Medical Certification Necessary for FMLA Leave?

As an employer, FMLA or the Family and Medical Leave Act is probably familiar to you. Under it, employees who work for a covered employer; have worked for 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles and have worked there for 12 months (not necessarily consecutively) are eligible for 12 weeks unpaid time off per calendar year for the birth of a child, the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, to take medical leave when unable to work due to a serious health condition or for qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s child or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves or Regular Armed Forces.

But, what if there is no proof, no official medical certification or other document guaranteeing that an employee qualifies for FMLA. As an employer, are you able to designate FMLA?

The Options

As an employer, if an employee is unable to produce medical certification proving their FMLA status, you have two options.

The first is to deny FMLA leave. If an employee has not returned complete and adequate medical certification within 15 days, you are able to deny FMLA leave in accordance with your company attendance policy, by treating the absence(s) as unexcused.

The second option is to designate the absence as FMLA leave without medical documentation. According to Federal Regulations, if an employer has sufficient information to designate a leave as FMLA leave immediately after receiving notice of the employee’s need for leave, the employer may provide the employee with the designation notice at that time.

This means that if you feel as though the information and facts that have been presented to you are in accordance with FMLA, you may designate the leave in that manner with no further questions asked, or by asking for certification later if you feel as though you have a reason to question the appropriateness of the leave or its duration (29 C.F.R. 825.305(b).

Use Caution

It’s important to practice caution when deciding upon this course of action. Should an employer designate FMLA leave when a serious health condition or other qualifying event is not presence could lead to an interference claim.

In many cases, especially when dealing with FMLA, it’s recommended that an employer seek legal counsel to be sure they are protected under law.

If you have questions pertaining to FMLA, or any other business law topic, set up a consultation with Attorney Michael Hynum of Hynum Law in Harrisburg, PA today. We look forward to working with you.