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What is certification of a serious health condition under FMLA?

Iowa workers who are eligible to take time off from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act should be cognizant of certain requirements that may accompany it. If, for example, the employer wants to receive certification of the serious health condition of the worker or the worker's family member before granting FMLA, it can request it. When the employer wants certification, it must be included in the notice regarding rights under FMLA when the employee first requests it. Certification can be requested later if there are concerns as to whether the leave or the duration of the leave were appropriate.

When the employer asks for medical certification, the employee must provide one that is complete and sufficient. In general, it must be provided within 15 calendar days of the employer making the request. The employee must pay for it and ensure that the employer receives it. If it is found to be insufficient or incomplete, the employer must detail what information is required to make it sufficient and complete. There will be seven calendar days to provide this.

An employee who does not provide the certification as requested in the necessary time frame or does not give the information is at risk of having the request for FMLA denied. Some employees need FMLA time off that goes beyond a year. If that is the case, the employer can ask that the employee have a new medical certification for every new FMLA leave year. After the employer receives this information as requested, the employer is not allowed to ask for additional information from the health care provider. The employer can ask a leave administrator, human resources professional or another health care provider to seek authentication or clarification.

An employer who questions the validity of the certification can ask for a second medical certification from a health care provider of the employer's choosing. It cannot be a health care provider the employer uses regularly. If there is a disparity, there can be a third certification selected by the employee and employer. That decision will be final. The employer can ask for recertification after 30 days if the leave is for the employee's health issue.

While employers have the right to request certification and recertification when an employee is exercising his or her rights under FMLA, there can be disputes regarding these issues. Workers who believe a personal illness or a family illness is being unfairly questioned or believe other FMLA violations are taking place may want to contact a legal professional experienced in employment law.

Source: dol.gov, "Fact Sheet #28G: Certification of a Serious Health Condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed Feb. 5, 2018

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