Mastering FMLA Certifications: Combat Abuse and Make the Right Call on Leave

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The Healthcare Provider Certification Form may seem like an objective tool that HR managers can use to determine whether to grant or deny FMLA leave requests. But the certification and recertification process isn’t always so cut and dry. Although obtaining the information to complete the forms may seem daunting, taking the time to do so can only benefit your organization.

Consider these examples:

  • Recently, a court ruled that an employer lawfully discharged an employee whose completed medical certification form merely stated that she had post-traumatic stress disorder and required medical treatment, therapy, bed rest, medication, and 120 days off from work. The employer concluded that the note was insufficient to support the request for leave and it asked the employee to provide more documentation. When she refused, she was discharged, and according to the court, the employer’s actions were legitimate.
  • In another recently decided case, an employer discharged an employee who failed to substantiate his need for FMLA leave by providing a medical certification on his claimed condition (prostate cancer). It turned out the employee lied about being absent to obtain radiation treatment—and about having cancer. Of course, no HR manager wants to think that employees would lie about their need for FMLA-protected leave, but as this case illustrates, unfortunately, it can happen.

Knowing how to effectively and systematically use medical certifications can help you determine who should be approved for leave and even realize when a fraudulent claim has been made. And perhaps most importantly, it can help prevent costly lawsuits.