When Tori exceeded the absences indicated on her certification form, her employer asked her doctor to recertify these additional absences.
When an employee takes medical leave, treatment by a healthcare provider is often assumed, and the frequency of doctor’s visits is rarely scrutinized. The Pennsylvania federal court’s recent decision in Watkins v. Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh alerts us that this is not always a wise approach. In evaluating FMLA leave entitlements, verifying continuing medical treatment can be well worth the trouble.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), an employer is permitted to contact an employee’s healthcare provider, with the employee’s permission, to clarify a medical certification submitted in support of the employee’s request for a leave of absence.
Backs across America must collectively be giving out, as my clients’ questions about medical certification from chiropractors are on the increase.
The FMLA and CFRA both permit an employer to require an employee requesting a leave of absence to provide a medical certification, but these laws differ with respect to the information and employer can request about the reasons for an employee’s requested leave.
When it comes to FMLA medical certification, my clients have many complaints.
Q: Our employee is trying to support his need for FMLA leave with medical certification from an online health care provider. Is this valid under the FMLA? And What if It’s a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor?
One of the biggest headaches for employers when administering FMLA leave is how to deal with the employee who exceeds the frequency or duration identified on the employee’s medical certification. Nearly all of these situations involve intermittent leave, which is the type of leave most frequently abused by employees.
On a number of occasions, we have discussed whether an employer can keep an employee out on FMLA leave even though they want to return, or whether an employer can require an employee to undergo a full medical examination before returning from FMLA leave. This scenario often arises where the employer has concerns about whether the employee is mentally fit to return to work, although the concern is properly raised whenever there are legitimate reservations about whether the employee can perform the duties of the job.
Let’s put our heads together on this one. You see, it appears as though far too many employees have bought into the notion that their employer is always responsible for the cost of obtaining medical certification to support an FMLA-related absence. Case in point: just last week, a client called me for help after one of her employees simply refused to return medical certification because she didn’t want to foot the $50 bill quoted by her physician for completing the certification form. She firmly believed her employer should pick up the tab.
Thanks to those who attended my webinar last week with Matt Morris on “Conquering the FMLA Medical Certification Process: Best Practices for Employers.” If you missed the program, you can access the webinar and materials here.
The feedback from last week’s blog post on annual FMLA certification came fast and furious. Most of it was complimentary (thank you!), but several of my fellow FMLA nerds raised an interesting issue. They noted that the FMLA regulation covering “annual” certifications does not specifically state that the certification in the new FMLA year must come in conjunction with an absence. So, they question whether an employer actually has to wait for the first absence in the new FMLA year before seeking new certification.
The DOL is on a roll, and employers can’t be amused. Over the past few months, the Department of Labor seemingly has issued statement after statement after statement announcing settlements it has reached with various employers in conjunction with alleged FMLA violations. Heck, DOL now even has its own blog highlighting its recent FMLA enforcement. [Hey, where did they get that crazy idea!?!]
Have you ever suspected that your employee has given you an excuse too rehearsed or provided a doctor’s note a bit too slick in support of their leave of absence? Don’t be fooled: they actually might be paying for the excuse.
Q: We have become more aggressive on suspected cases of FMLA abuse and, as a result, we have sent a greater number of employees for second and third opinions after they turn in medical certification. Once we have received the second or third opinion, how long can we rely on it?