• Providing Employees an Opportunity to Correct FMLA Certifications
  • August 10, 2015
  • Law Firm: Shawe Rosenthal LLP - Baltimore Office
  • A recent case highlights the need for employers to follow carefully the technical rules for dealing with inadequate Family and Medical Leave Act certifications.

    In Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, the employee provided an FMLA certification that provided an estimated length of leave, but not the nature or duration of her condition. After taking several days off from work, she was terminated for excessive absences and told that her leave request had been denied because the certification was invalid. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, however, found that the employer had improperly failed to give the employee a chance to correct any deficiencies in the certification, and had therefore violated the FMLA.

    To refresh you on the applicable rules under the FMLA, an employer may require an employee to provide a “complete and sufficient” certification to support the request for FMLA leave. A “sufficient” certification must contain: (1) the date on which the serious health condition began; (2) the probable duration of the condition; (3) relevant medical facts; (4) a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of the position; (5) the dates and duration of any planned medical treatment; and (6) the expected duration of leave. A certification that lacks any of these items is incomplete. If all of the items are present, but the answers are vague, ambiguous or non-responsive, the certification is insufficient.

    If an employer receives an incomplete or insufficient medical certification, it must advise the employee of the deficiency and state in writing what additional information is needed. The consequences of failing to return the certification or remedy the deficiencies within the time frame should also be explained - that FMLA leave may be denied. The employee has seven calendar days to provide sufficient information, unless s/he is unable to do so despite good faith efforts, in which case the employer must provide additional time.