The Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees eligible employees at least 12 weeks of leave from work, in the event of a serious illness. Leave is also allowed if an immediate family member of an employee has a serious illness, and the employee needs time off to care for their loved one. There are many requirements and conditions that must be met by both the employee and the employer. These requirements are explained in the federal statute that governs FMLA. One very important requirement, of which employees need to be aware, is the requirement of providing a doctor's note.
The provisions and guarantees of the FMLA
The FMLA allows employees to take leave from work to deal with health issues, without the fear that they may lose their jobs. While an employee is off on FMLA leave, the employer is required to maintain the employee's existing health insurance coverage, and guarantee that their job (or an equivalent position) will be waiting for them when they return. Qualified employees are guaranteed a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave each 12-month period.
Another important provision is that FMLA leave can be taken intermittently. This makes it easier for employees to go to doctor's appointments and receive treatment, without having to be absent on consecutive days. This also includes the right to work reduced work hours, if the employee's doctor believes that is required.
The Doctor's Note Requirement under the FMLA
In order to enjoy all of the guarantees the FMLA provides, employees may be required to provide their employers with a doctor's note. The purpose of this requirement is to discourage employees from abusing the FMLA, by taking time off when they don't really need to. Nevertheless, this requirement does not go unchecked. There are certain limitations on the doctor's note requirement, with which employer's must comply.
Frequency of doctor's not requests
An employer can only request a doctor's note every 30 days, when an employee is on leave for an extended period of time. If an employee brings a doctor's note that indicate intermittent medical leave will be required, the employer should not request any additional certification. If the initial note indicates the expected amount of time needed and the approximate dates, that should be sufficient.
An employer can require a doctor's note as part of a company-wide attendance policy. However, that policy must be uniformly enforced for all employees. In other words, an employer cannot single out specific employees and enforce different attendance rules.
Personal questions are off limits
Employers are not allowed to ask their employees personal questions regarding the nature of their illness or condition. The doctor's note needs to only indicate that time off under the FMLA time is needed. There is no obligation to explain any personal details about the medical condition.
If you feel you have been denied rights under the FMLA, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights in general, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.