This article series will cover managing medical certifications under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In the last section we covered the basics of medical certification, here we’ll go over the steps involved in requesting certification.
Employers must notify employees of the certification requirements in the eligibility notice and accompanying rights and responsibilities notice, the additional requirements for which will be discussed in a later article. You may also request additional certification at a later time if you have reason to question the appropriateness of the leave or its duration.
In most cases, requests for medical certification of the need for FMLA leave should be made immediately after the employee gives notice of the need for leave or within 5 business days thereafter or, in the case of unforeseen leave, within 5 business days after the leave commences. The employer may request certification at some later date if the employer later has reason to question the appropriateness of the leave or its duration.
You must request the first medical certification in writing; later requests may be made orally. In your request, you should tell employees the consequences of not furnishing the completed certification.
Employees are allowed 15 calendar days to furnish a complete and sufficient certification, but you may need to grant them an extension of time if it wasn’t practicable, despite diligent, good-faith efforts, to do so in a timely fashion. You may also allow employees more than 15 days under your policies, but make sure to be consistent in granting any such extensions.
The employer is always responsible for designating leave as FMLA-qualifying and for giving notice of the designation to the employee. When the employer has enough information to determine whether the leave is being taken for an FMLA-qualifying reason (e.g., after receiving a medical certification), the employer must notify the employee whether the leave will be designated and will be counted as FMLA leave within 5 business days, absent extenuating circumstances.