HR Management & Compliance

You’re the Expert: FMLA Abuse

We have some people who may be abusing our Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies. We approved their going out on leave, but now we suspect they don’t qualify. What do you do to identify and stop FMLA abuse?


Our HR Management & Compliance Report: How To Comply with California and Federal Leave Laws, covers everything you need to know to stay in compliance with both state and federal law in one of the trickiest areas of compliance for even the most experienced HR professional. Learn the rules for pregnancy and parental leaves, medical exams and certifications, intermittent leaves, required notices, and more.


I think every employer faces this to some degree. We basically have a person assigned to manage leave—it’s not his full-time job, but it’s a substantial part of his workload. (We are a large company with many people out on leave at any given time.) His main task is to rigorously review certification documents. If there are questions, we ask the employee to go back to the physician for clarification, and if we are not satisfied, we seek a second and sometimes a third opinion. Because our employees all know that this review is going to occur, they usually don’t even try to take leave unless they can document the need for it. Then, we require recertification every 30 days if the original certification has run out or if we suspect fraud. — A.G.

We have found that if we monitor a few key indicators, we can spot most FMLA fraud. Here’s what we look for:

  • Monday and Friday absences. As we heard one consultant say, “Family leave is not a long-weekend program.”
  • Regular timing—for example, someone who always misses the third week in August because of a flare-up of back pain.
  • People who use all possible leave every year.
  • Conveniently timed leave, such as just before getting fired for attendance problems.

When we see these indicators, we dig in and can usually address the problem quickly. — T.W.