The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employers an important tool to make sure employees qualify for FMLA leave: the certification. A certification is a document that verifies the employee’s need to take leave for a serious health condition or military family leave. Usually, the certification is completed by the employee and a health care provider. It provides information on the employee’s need for leave, which the employer can use to determine whether the employee is covered by the FMLA.
There are four types of certifications under the FMLA:
If you want an employee to provide a certification, you must request it, in writing, within five business days after you learn of an employee’s need for FMLA leave. The employee must return the completed certification within 15 calendar days, unless you give the employee more time or it is not practicable for the employee to meet this time limit under the circumstances, despite the employee’s diligent, good faith efforts.
If the certification form you receive is insufficient or incomplete, you must let the employee know, in writing, and give the employee at least seven calendar days to correct the problem and provide a proper certification. Your company may take steps to clarify or authenticate a certification for a serious health condition or for military caregiver leave, but this is a limited right. You may not request more information than the form requires. The employee’s direct supervisor may not contact the employee’s health care provider. And, you may clarify or authenticate a certification only after giving the employee an opportunity to cure any problems.
Once the employee returns a completed certification, you may request a second opinion: another certification, provided by a health care provider of your choosing. Your company must pay the costs of the second opinion, including the employee’s or family member’s reasonable travel expenses.
If the first and second certifications contradict each other, you may ask the employee to get a third opinion, which will be binding on everyone. The provider who gives the third opinion must be mutually agreeable to the company and the employee.
In some circumstances, your company may ask an employee to provide a recertification of a serious health condition. The general rule is that you may request recertification only in connection with an employee absence, and no more often than every 30 days. If the original certification indicates that the serious health condition will last more than 30 days, you must wait until the duration indicated on the certification expires before you request recertification. However, no matter how long the condition is expected to last, you may request recertification every six months, in connection with an absence.
Employers may request recertifications more frequently if the employee requests an extension of leave, the circumstances described in the previous certification have changed, or you receive information that casts doubt on the employee’s stated reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the certification.