Human resource executives feel that many employees abuse FMLA leave. As with many types of absences, the facts or excuses provided defy logic. Employees will seek FMLA leave for concerns far from “serious.” Hangovers, colds, and sore backs don’t count. The healthcare provider is often lackadaisical about any medical certification and will simply ask an employee how much time off they want.
Here’s the point: There’s a lot of abuse in the system and HR executives should not take employee requests on face value. If you don’t feel the medical certification (which should always be required) is accurate, you may request clarification. In fact, recent amendments to the FMLA will allow you to contact their healthcare provider directly.
Many HR folks don’t contest or further examine requests for leave either because they’re intimidated by the medical certification process or they don’t want to be viewed as someone who doesn’t care. Neither justification will do. The recent case of Taylor & Taylor v. Ameritech Services points out just how difficult it can be to rein in employee abuse of FMLA leave. In this case, the court granted a summary judgment for Ameritech against FMLA claims brought by a couple who failed to deliver their certifications in a proper and timely fashion and then to cure any deficiencies in them. It’s a relatively short read that’s well worth your time to understand how the court views medical certifications.
Some of the points made in the case are:
- “While a company is not permitted to interfere with the ability to obtain a medical certification, a constant extending of the submittal deadline is not required of the employer. As stated, all the employer is required to do is provide the employee with a ‘reasonable opportunity’ to cure the deficiency; no more was required.”
- “Employers may also require that completed certifications be faxed or mailed by the doctor rather than permitting the applicant to do the sending.”
- “Nothing in the statute forbids an employer to adopt reasonable, non-burdensome measures for preventing fraud.”