When you apply for leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), your employer may request that you submit a medical certification. Some employers require this certification by default, while others may request it only in certain situations. You will know if you need to submit a medical certification because your employer will tell you at the time that you request leave through FMLA. If your employer does not request the certification, you do not need to worry about contacting your physician or filling out any additional forms.
However, if your employer does tell you that you are required to submit a certification, you have a limited amount of time to turn it in. Typically, employees only have fifteen days to provide their medical certification to their employer. It’s important to contact your doctor as soon as possible so that the proper documents can be submitted for the purpose of protecting your FMLA. If your employer requests a medical certification and you do not provide it, your FMLA may be denied. You must cover the cost of meeting with your doctor to receive the certification.
In most cases, a note from your physician or the physician overseeing a loved one whom you are caring for is sufficient. This note, however, should contain several important pieces of information. According to the Department of Labor, medical certifications for use of FMLA should include information about the physician and his or her office, including contact information, the date that your health issue began and how long it is expected to last, a brief medical history related to this issue, including your symptoms, treatments, and doctor’s visits or hospitalizations.
Additionally, the note should specify whether your FMLA will be used for a continuous period or if it will be used intermittently. If you plan to take the leave intermittently, or bit-by-bit, it is important that the note detail an approximation of how much time you will need for each absence for up to twelve weeks. If you plan to take a continuous leave, the not should specify whether you will take the full twelve weeks or some other, lesser amount of time.
When you submit the certification, it is the responsibility of your employer to inform you if there is additional information needed. If the employer requests more details, you have seven days to reach out to you doctor and have the supplemental information added. If an employer is suspicious of the certification, they can request a second opinion. However, the employer must cover the costs of that second opinion. Even then, the employer can request a third opinion if the first two are in conflict. Again, the employer must cover this cost. Notably, your employer can request an updated certification if anything changes with your FMLA.
When taking FMLA, it is important to have open lines of communication between you and your doctor and you and your employer. Remember that submission of the medical certification, if requested, and any supplemental information is all time sensitive, so it’s important to stay on top of all of the information that you need to submit.