FAQs about FMLA certifications
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) involves several touchpoints between employee and employer, and one such touchpoint can also involve a health care provider: the certification. The certification can provide enough information to help you determine whether a reason for leave qualifies for FMLA protections, or it can provide headaches when the information is incomplete or otherwise insufficient or even late. Since so many questions revolve around this otherwise innocuous form, it seemed fitting to tackle some of the more prevalent ones.
Q: What should we do when we get a certification that has incomplete information? Should we ask the healthcare provider for clarification directly?
A: If the certification is incomplete (applicable entries are not completed) or insufficient (information is vague, unresponsive), you are to return the form to the employee with a written list of what is needed to make it complete and sufficient. The employee than has seven days to fix any issues. The only time you may directly contact the healthcare provider, is if you have a complete and sufficient certification, but you need some clarification (handwriting, meaning of a response), or authentication.
Q: May an employer ask for a doctor's verification of need to care for a parent?
A: Yes, you may ask for a certification supporting the need of an employee’s leave to care for a family member (parent, spouse, child).
Q: If an employee has several conditions, may we request a certification for each one, even if they are all being treated by the same doctor?
A: Yes; you may request a certification for each different condition.
Q: Which certification form do we use for birth/bonding?
A: None; you may not request a certification if leave is to bond with a healthy child. You may, however, ask for reasonable documentation of the family relationship.
Q: If an employee receives treatment from a doctor outside the U.S who may not be able to provide the certification in English, is it acceptable to have the employee provide the translation to the employer?
A: Yes; if you receive a certification in a language other than English, you may require the employee to provide you with a written translation.
Q: If we ask for a certification for all employees, is it discriminatory to not ask for one in certain circumstances?
A: You are not mandated to ask for a certification for all situations (and you may not ask for one for birth/bonding). Having a uniformly applied policy or practice of asking for a certification for similarly-situated employees can help avoid some challenges with employees feeling they’ve not been treated fairly.
Q: Should we designate leave pending receipt of a certification?
A: The employee is generally considered provisionally protected by the FMLA leave until you receive the certification. You would designate the leave as FMLA leave after receiving enough information to do so, often from a certification.
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