Overview: Most employers understand the need to prevent employee abuse of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. One tool in an employer's arsenal to help control abuse is the medical certification form. An employer may require employees requesting FMLA leave to provide proper certification of the underlying facts that form the basis for the leave request. In order to effectively use the certification tool, employers must make sure certifications are complete and sufficient before approving FMLA leave.
The need for certification typically arises when an employee needs FMLA leave for the serious health condition of the employee or the employee's family member, the serious injury or illness of a covered military servicemember or a qualifying military exigency.
Employers that require certification forms need to check their applicable state or local law to see if such laws limit the amount of medical information they may ask of an employee to substantiate the need for leave. Some states, for example, have laws that permit employers only to require certification of the existence of a serious health condition, and not the underlying medical facts that describe the condition or the diagnosis.
Trends: With the increasing use of social media comes the risk of an employer becoming aware of information that leads the employer to question the validity of an employee's FMLA certification. Employers should use social media information with caution because there may be legal implications surrounding the monitoring of employees on FMLA leave.
Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to incorporate the San Diego Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance, effective July 11, 2016.
Updated to reflect the forthcoming Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance.
Updated to reflect the addition of military exigencies as a qualifying reason for taking leave under the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act, effective June 7, 2016.
Updated to reflect forthcoming pregnancy accommodation requirements.
Revised to incorporate New York City pregnancy accommodation enforcement guidance, issued May 6, 2016.
Revised to incorporate pregnancy accommodation requirements, effective May 10, 2016.
Updated to include information on individual liability under the federal FMLA in a federal court ruling covering Vermont employers.
Updated to include information on individual liability under the FMLA in a federal court ruling covering Connecticut, New York and Vermont employers.
Updated to reflect additional protection for pregnant employees suffering from pre-birth complications.
Updated to incorporate Elizabeth's paid sick leave ordinance, effective March 2, 2016.
HR guidance on FMLA certification - a legally permissible tool for employers to reduce FMLA fraud and abuse.