HR Management & Compliance

Ask the Expert: Medical Recertification for Employee’s Wife?

We have an employee who has been on intermittent FMLA for a long time due to his wife’s chronic health condition. May we ask for an updated medical certificate from his wife’s doctor? We are concerned that he may be misusing the system. It’s been 5 years since we obtained the first certificate of serious health condition.

Thank you for your inquiry regarding requesting updated medical certification for a family member’s illness.

Yes, you may request medical re-certification for the employee’s wife’s medical condition to ensure that the use of intermittent leave to provide care is still appropriate.

As you are aware, under the FMLA, employers are permitted to request medical certification of the need to take leave for the employee’s own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a covered family member.

Generally, an employer may request recertification no more often than every 30 days; however, when the employee or family member suffers from a medical condition that is chronic or long-term, then the employer must wait for the minimum duration of the condition as provided in the initial certification. (For example, if the initial certification gives a minimum expected duration of 6 months for treatment, then in this case the employer should wait for the expiration of that initial 6 month period before requesting recertification).

However, there are even exceptions to these minimum requirements that work in the employer’s favor. An employer may request recertification sooner than the minimums discussed above if:

  • The employee requests an extension of leave;
  • Circumstances described by the previous certification have changed significantly (e.g., the duration or frequency of the absence, the nature or severity of the illness, etc.), or
  • The employer receives information that casts doubt on the employee’s stated reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the certification.

So, even if the initial medical certification noted that the employee’s wife’s condition is a chronic or long-term condition, it is unlikely that the certification would provide a minimum expected duration of 5 years. Additionally, from the information you have provided, it sounds as if the circumstances have changed and that there is sufficient information to cast doubt on the continuing validity of such certification.

If you’d like more information on recertification, you may wish to browse our FMLA Resources Center, as you may also find some of the guidance documents and videos there helpful for handling this situation.