FMLA Certification

Editor's Note: Certifications help combat FMLA fraud and abuse.

Melissa S. BurdorfOverview: 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 leave under the FMLA to provide an appropriate 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 a certification typically arises when an employee's need for FMLA leave is because of 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 state or local law to see if such laws limit the amount of medical information they can require in a certificate 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, not the underlying medical facts that describe that condition or the diagnosis.

Trends: With the increasing use of social media comes the risk of an employer becoming aware of information from social media resources that lead an employer to question the validity of an employee's certification. Employers should use such information with caution because there can be legal implications for monitoring employees on FMLA leave.

Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor

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