FMLA: Forms, policies and the do’s and don’ts of requesting leave and FMLA paperwork

by on December 15, 2009 · 57 Comments POSTED IN: HR Info Center

The responsibilities of employer’s and employees: FMLA paperwork and request policies

In many FMLA cases, one of the biggest issues is how employees request family medical leave. The FMLA has guidelines outlining the proper FMLA paperwork and notice needed to take legal leave. Many companies have their own additional FMLA forms and request policies, as well.

‘FMLA Certification: What Every Manager Needs to Know to Prevent Abuse’

Here are two cases that provide insight into both an employee’s and an employer’s responsibilities under the law.

In the first instance, a pregnant employee told her supervisor that she was going to need some time off when her baby was born. She didn’t specifically mention FMLA leave. Nor did she ask to complete FMLA forms requesting the leave.

In case number two, an employee violated company policy by leaving a message about his medical absence with the company’s security desk, instead of with HR or documented in FMLA paperwork.

In the third case, supervisors neglected to supply the FMLA paperwork that a man desperately needed in order to legally reduce his workweek.

Fired for financial reasons?

Laurel Mullin, a Manpower employee, told her supervisor in confidence that she was five weeks pregnant, and that she expected to take “maternity leave” close to her due date.

Shortly after that, Mullin was fired. Her boss said it was for “financial reasons.” Another supervisor told her it was for financial reasons plus “performance reasons.”

Mullin filed a lawsuit against Manpower, which believed it had the right to fire her for reasons unrelated to her leave request. And it did have that right. Problem was, Manpower couldn’t prove that Mullin was fired for any reason other than her intention to take FMLA leave.

In court, Manpower made a convoluted argument: Because Mullin hadn’t specifically requested “FMLA leave,” or the necessary FMLA paperwork to apply for one, she hadn’t been granted FMLA leave. And since she hadn’t been granted such leave, she couldn’t very well be fired in retaliation for taking it.

In issuing its decision in favor of Mullin, the court described an employee’s responsibility if she wants maternity leave: She must tell her employer that she will need time off for the birth of her son or daughter, and make sure that any FMLA paperwork given to her is completed. She doesn’t have to mention FMLA specifically, as she may not know what it is. It’s the employer’s responsibility, not the employee’s, to recognize that such a request qualifies as FMLA leave and to supply the FMLA forms.

No FMLA forms, no requests, no dice

Another recent case highlights the employee’s responsibility when requesting medical leave and the necessary FMLA forms.

When Samuel Cavin got into a motorcycle accident, he called in to the security desk where he worked and told the operator he’d be out for the day. He did the same each day for one full week – no FMLA forms, no certification, no documented request.

The security desk noted Cavin’s absence, but – according to company policy – listed no reason for it.

The next week, when Cavin returned to work with a “fit for duty” note from his doctor, he learned he’d been dismissed for violating company policy. For absences longer than three days, employees were required to call in to HR – not to the security desk – and request a leave of absence.

Cavin sued his employer and lost his case. The court said that the employer’s policy was clearly spelled out in its handbook, and that no reasonable jury could find that Cavin had given his employer adequate notice, especially because there were no FMLA forms documenting his illness or request.

Slow FMLA paperwork for HIV worker costs $277K

A third case demonstrates the disastrous consequences of supervisors who do not adhere to their FMLA obligations.

Pharmacy giant CVS must pay a worker at an AIDS/HIV specialty pharmacy $277,000 because supervisors failed to provide the FMLA paperwork needed for family medical leave.

The HIV-positive worker, employed at a store in San Francisco’s Castro district, sought the FMLA paperwork needed to reduce his work schedule, because he was becoming increasingly fatigued and ill.

A jury found supervisors at fault for dragging their heels on providing the necessary FMLA forms to reduce his workweek from five days to four. He was forced to resign to protect his health.

Bottom line: Employer should explain, employees should fill out FMLA paperwork

These cases underscore both the employer’s and the employee’s duties under FMLA.

It’s okay to have a policy that specifies the means of requesting a leave (example: contact HR for the proper FMLA forms). But you can’t fire someone because she didn’t request leave by using the right words. If she doesn’t say “FMLA,” you must explain her FMLA rights to her. If she doesn’t ask to sign the appropriate FMLA paperwork, it’s your responsibility to give her the FMLA forms and ask her to do so.

And if she doesn’t return the signed FMLA paperwork, it’s your obligation to remind her.

Cites: Mullin v. Rochester Manpower, Inc., U.S. District Court, Western District of NY, No. 00-CV-6257 CJS(B), 1/10/02; Cavin v. Honda of America, Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of OH, Eastern Division, No. C2-00-400, 2/22/02; San Francisco Examiner.

  • Nora

    My company did not give me an FMLA form for my maternity leave so I was put on TDI. If I want to continue to stay home to care for my premature baby, for lets say over 6 months, do they have the right to let me go? And also, take away my full time position along with benefits?

  • stevenbell

    are doctors allowed to charge to fill out paper work for fmla for medical that requires

  • gckane

    I had an emergency surgery and was off for about 4 weeks. I’m back to work now. When I returned to work, my employer told me that I should have filled out FMLA forms. After looking at the form, I don’t want to fill it out because I don’t want to share my medical information. I been back to work now doing my regular work. Don’t I have a choice?

  • Toyia Broady

    Can you go out on STD, and have FMLA at the same time.

  • jennifer

    can an employer request you apply for fmla every 3 months

  • Anonymous

    I need a form, My work does not have them, I work for a small family store. My son been in the hospital for 19 days, they let him come home, bed rest only. They still dont know whats wrong with him. Running lots of test on him.

  • Kay Hill

    Are they're any laws regarding non married couples from taking FMLA for the birth of a child?

  • Bobbynicole58

    I turned my paperwork in about 5 months ago and I thought all the paperwork was done right I was told that i might get in trouble for call in that started when I thought I was on fmla

    • rliblogs

      Thanks for your comment. We can't respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
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      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

      Michael Boyette
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      Rapid Learning Institute
      PO Box A
      Morton, PA 19070

      mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
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    • rliblogs

      Thanks for your comment. We can't respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

      Michael Boyette
      Executive Editor
      Rapid Learning Institute
      PO Box A
      Morton, PA 19070

      mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
      484-479-2715

  • Shirlwoolf

    I have worked for the State of Missouri for 33 years. My 83 year old mother who lives 1 hour and 45 minutes from my home is having serious health problems. She had surgery on July 28th and after being in the hospital for two days was admitted to a nursing care facility for physical therapy. The 4 weeks prior to her surgery someone had to stay with her each night because she was unable to get walk or get up during the night. My 87 year old father injured his back trying to continually lift her. My three sister, who have families and work, but live near took turns spending the night caring for her. I ask our Human Resource person if it would be possible to use FMLA so I could assist with her care and was told it would be their choice, not mine. I do have earned sick and annual leave, which I would use. Why would I not be allowed to count my leave (my earned sick leave) as FMLA to preserve my job so I can help with the care of my mother. I offered to get statements from her physician.

    • rliblogs

      Thanks for your comment. We can't respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

      Michael Boyette
      Executive Editor
      Rapid Learning Institute
      PO Box A
      Morton, PA 19070

      mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
      484-479-2715

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_53SJBWZE3ADCKFJLWJKQUX5HME Duane

      Your employer has the obligation to provide FMLA to you if they have more than 50 employees and you have working more than  1500 hours or one year in many cases.  You need to call them out and demand the paperwork needed!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
    situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
    comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
    from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

    Michael Boyette
    Executive Editor
    Rapid Learning Institute
    PO Box A
    Morton, PA 19070

    mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
    484-479-2715

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
    situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
    comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
    from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

    Michael Boyette
    Executive Editor
    Rapid Learning Institute
    PO Box A
    Morton, PA 19070

    mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
    484-479-2715

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
    situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
    comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
    from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

    Michael Boyette
    Executive Editor
    Rapid Learning Institute
    PO Box A
    Morton, PA 19070

    mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
    484-479-2715

  • blue blood

    Can a new father divide the time off? For instance take off 3 weeks right after birth and return to work for 3 or 4 weeks while new mother takes care of baby. Then take off 3 weeks so the mother can go back to work? Tag team FMLA?

    • Cowgirlblings

      Yes sir you can.. If you meet the Fmla qualifications then you can take the fmla leave for the birth of your child just like the mother has a right to… 12 weeks/ 480 hours.. You do NOT get paid STD during because it’s for a family member whereas if you gave birth you would.. Most Men do not know they are equal in this and employers don’t seem to inform them. Hope that helps.. and remember you don’t have to take the leave consecutive you can request two weeks or how ever many, then request intermittent FMLA and take remainder of the 12weeks/480hrs in a roiling year off ad needed for Dr.visits with the baby… Employer can request you to re certify every month but most don’t. Not a biggy but can be. I have noticed from my experience in HR with large company, I see more and more Dr’s charging to complete paperwork on patients.. $35 bucks was the last one I seen which could add up monthly!!!! Good luck!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
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  • Sxfootfromtheedge

    I work for 4 years at this factory was currently laid off 1 year and then called back. My question is did I have to complete another 1250 hours to receive FMLA. Also now our company is being sold if I get re hired will I be requied to work another 1250 to receive FMLA. (our Plant manager bought our company)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

      Michael Boyette
      Executive Editor
      Rapid Learning Institute
      PO Box A
      Morton, PA 19070

      mboyette@rapidlearninginstitute.com
      484-479-2715

  • Bams

    If an employee uses FMLA intermittently, once an employee has requested a FMLA day how long before it is approved? In other words, how long can one expect to receive the paperwork showing it’s been approved?

  • Jessnick28

    I was recently taken off of my schedule at work by the manager, because i am due at any time to have a baby. I had called the accountant to make sure that this would not interfere with my benefits because of taking an extra couple of weeks off ( that i did not ask to be taken off for). She informed me that i was fine, then the next day the owner came to me and told me that i did not fill out my paperwork and did not give a notcie so when i return back to work i come back to no benefits at all. I was not aware of any paperwork that had to be filled out, noone ever said anything to me about it. It wasnt like i was hiding my pregnancy everyone at work has known since may. I worked for this company before ten years ago and had a maternity leave and never had to fill out any paperwork. Is it too late to fill the forms out now that i have already been taken off the schedule? Please help i am confused and upset. Also is it 1,250 hours that makes u eligible for it, my paperwork from my job says it has to be 1,456. I was told my best bet was to only take off for 2-3 weeks after having the baby so i dont risk my chances of losing my benefits are they allowed to do this to me??

  • Jasminsheree

    I am 34 wks pregnant and due Feb 22. My mother was wanting to come to help me when I deliver, because my husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan and will not return until after our son is born. I also have no family or friends here to help me. Because of this my mother will be out of work for two weeks(without pay). She lives in Texas and I live in North Carolina. Does her helping me qualify her for FMLA benefits?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

    • Jdtori

      i was wondering Jasminsheree how this worked out for you.  I have a similar situation where my daughter is due soon and I want/need to go help her as Daddy/Husband is due to be deployed also to Afghanistan shortly after birth but I have been told by HR that mine will most likely be denied.  Can you provide an update?

  • Cravens_g

    how much time do i have to approve or denie fmla

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
    situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
    comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
    from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

  • ConcernedinFlorida

    Can an employer dictate what doctor must fill out FMLA papers? I have a primary doctor and 5 specialists for a serious rare surgically induced medical condition. My employer is telling me that one particular specialist must be the doctor to “re-certify” my FMLA. Can they do that? My primary is the doctor that is coordinating everything between all my specialists

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comment. We can’t respond to questions about specific
      situations or provide legal advice, but we invite other readers to post
      comments or responses to this question. We encourage you to seek guidance
      from your HR department or, for legal questions, consult an attorney.

  • Anonymous

    State of Indiana. Employee fully released to return to work, no restrictions. She has only used 172.9 of her FMLA hours.
    Question? Does the release end the FMLA or the 12 months allowed to use the full 12 weeks?
    Linda

  • Anonymous

    I am a small business owner, we have an employee who has not worked for 3 weeks and is now asking for fmla forms. I have never heard of these forms and do not know how to proceed. Need some help here.

  • Carolannie24

    My supervisor told me to fax over my FMLA paperwork from my doctor to our office fax. I told her that I felt uncomfortable faxing it to our main fax since anyone could get their hands on it and I did not want anyone else in the office to know. She demanded that I have my doctor fax to the back fax (which was not private either). I told her that I also felt uncomfortable and asked if my doctor could fax the FMLA paperwork to H.R. and they could give my supervisor any information needed. She told me to have my doctor fax to both places (against my wishes). Now, everyone in my office knows and it is sooo appalling and embarrassing to me!!!! Are their any instances in Oregon where someone has won a privacy case? Thank you.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_53SJBWZE3ADCKFJLWJKQUX5HME Duane

      You are responsible to provide your section of FMLA and the Physician’s to the employer.   You dont have to use ANY fax to complete that. 

  • Tamydee88

    i requested fmla paperwork in march of 2011 because of the unpredictalbe health issues of my daughter. it is now may and my daughter had another issue where she was again hospitalized. in march i took my 2 week vacation pay, i still have 80 sick that they will not let me use for this time around. instead ive been told that i need to step down from my assistant manager position after 4 years down to cashier. 40 hours to 20 or less with a paycut  as well. after ultimatums of trying to get me to step down or resign i receve my fmla paperwork in the mail dated may 10, when requested march. now what? and whos covering who? 

  • Lillian 20

    Ok,,, My Dr. has taken me off work for 2 weeks. I talked with my boss on monday an he said he will talk with me on tuesday, about it when i get to work… but when i went to the DR that day he told me no i couldnt work for 2 weeks do to my kidneys…I called the HR manager an she told me to fas he the notes. I did so 2 times. she told me she was not going to have me fill out FMLA papers untill I was going to b off for 7 days.. well today i called them an said now its 2 weeks… my HR manager said.. i am going to send u the paper work just get it back to me ASAP. for ur FMLA…i want to know if they can fire me for this?

  • susan

    an employee has a serious medical condition outlined in FMLA papers putting him out until 11.1.11.  Once he realizes his FMLA runs out on 8.1.11, he seeks a RTW slip and gets one, w no restrictions.  Employer feels the job requirements expose that employee to further injury and would like a second opinion. Is that permitted?

  • Roberts Chris34

    Is there fmla forms for my dr to fill out for my return to work.

  • Crfleenor

    I know you get fmla for 12 weeks a year My question is  DOES THE YEAR RUN FROM THE DATE YOU FILL OUT YOUR PAPERS SAY SEPTEMBER TO SEPTEMBER

  • Gkellie80

    What should i do? I went to a new doctor (my doctor had passed away unexpectedly) and the new doctor is refusing to fill out fmla forms for my sinus infection/bronchitis  (not even sure exactly what she diagnosed me with) she was very abrupt and became ignorant to me when i told her i needed fmla forms filled out)  she says sinus infections/bronchitis does not qualify and she is not going to even mess with the paperwork…she says only things such as cancer, etc does..i showed her where my other paperwork had gotten qualified but she doesnt care…i should have left her office and gone to another doctor but i didn’t…now i don’t know what to do to get this resolved…

    • Sammiesprings

      Just wondering what ever came of your situation?

  • Sally

    What is the difference between FMLA and Family leave disability insurance.? The think the second one they don’t have to hold your job for you and the first they do??? I need to take time off for my Mom who resides in a nursing home and is on hospice now.  We have a small office of 18 people so I dont fall under the FMLA guidelines. Is it the same paperwork to be completed and do I stop working and then apply??? Sorry so many questions I just never did this before.

  • Ejc2112

    Ccan a birth certificate qualify for the document request for leave

  • AP

    I went to my dr about the stress in the work place. My dr took me off work and filled out the papers. I gave them to my HR department. Does anyone know if my HR department is suppose to send the paperwork in or am I? Can someone please, please help me with this??????

    • guest

      In my workplace the Doctor has to fax the forms to FMLA directly from their doctors office.
       

  • Jmurray571

    I started to use my FMLA in Oct 2011 for tx of breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy.  My last chemo tx is scheduled for early January 2012.  My oncologist recommened I have a mastectomy to prevent recurrance, but my FMLA ends the end of Jan 2012 and I need to return to work by Feb 1st.  I work full time.  When would I be eligible to us FMLA again to have this surgery? 

  • rozz

    ive been workin at walmart for about a little over 3 months, they knew i was pregnant when i started. i went into preterm labor the other day and just got out of the hospital, my dr gave me a paper for me to start matrurnity leave now. will i get fired because i am requesting maturnity leave so soon after working for only a little over three months?

    • Melanieochoa13

      what happened after u went back to work?

  • Sdmullins13

    My employer says its company policy to file for FMLA. Can they force me to file if I want to use vacation time?

  • Mckennamom09

    my two year old daughter is currently on a waiting list for intensive feeding therapy.she will have to go to the local childrens hospital all day 5 days a week they said she will most likely start in july her doctor has told me it qualifies for fmla i have ask several times for the papers my hr director says but she looks fine and wants more information.after i ask for the papers does she have to give them to me she says she needs more info like why she has to go how long she has to be there each day and what the hours will be before she can give me the papers is this true ?

  • stephanie

    i fell at work on 3/28/12  on wax/stripper while doing my job . hurt my back really bad  …. i have a  lawyer but cant seem to get this question answered . HR called me and left me a msg that thay are sending me FMLA papers to sign because i have missed more then 3 day … i have sent them my work status .no work untill pending mri results … if this is a work relatd injury why do i need FMLA papers, is it so thay dont have to pay me workers comp ???? please somebody answer this one one question please,please,please thank you  steff :/

  • Curious

    Does taking care of a seriously ill sibling fall under the protection of FMLA? Or is it restricted to children/parents/spouses?

  • Chrinic Pain Guy

    Due to working for CVS/caremark.. I have crap insurance and at the last minute they decided to not cover my medication. I am going to get really sick and maybe die.  How should I explain this to my crappy job?

  • Hardavbren

    Can your employer post that your FMLA has been approved in Board Minutes for everyone to see?

  • karen evans

    i am out due to workers comp,i did not request fmla but was sent a certified letter from the company stateing that i had twelve weeks to return or i would have to reapply for my job,my question ,can i stop my fmla leave and pick it back up down the road at a leter date

  • 7chuckster

    I took off a day of work for sickness and didn’t need to go to a doctor.  My company says I can’t take FLMA because I didn’t go to a doctor, but must take vacation.  This doesn’t sound correct. I understand FMLA leave can be for less then an hour and there wouldn’t be time to go to a doctor in that time.  Are they correct that they can denny me just because I didn’t go to a doc?  Thanks

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