Stick to your FMLA certification guns

by on February 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

HR wouldn’t accept FMLA abuse

Everybody says your best defense against FMLA abuse lies in one safeguard – insisting employees provide proper FMLA certification for their requested leave.

A recent court case in Ohio drives that point home. The employer’s HR people stuck to their guns on FMLA certification, and by golly if they didn’t win.

Here’s the scenario: An employee asked for FMLA leave, citing back pain. Interestingly, she waited until she’d exceeded the points limit for termination under her employer’s attendance policy.

FORM AFTER FORM

First, the employee tried to get a physician other than her own to sign the FMLA certification.

HR told her to see her own doctor, but the employee merely sent the form to the doctor’s office. The doctor filled it out, but left out info about her condition because she hadn’t examined the employee recently.

Quite properly, HR wouldn’t accept the suspicious FMLA form. So the employee phoned the doctor’s assistant and insisted she complete the form and fax it in. Suspicious, the employer still wouldn’t give in. As was its right, HR asked the employee for permission to contact her doctor. The doctor admitted she hadn’t completed the entire form.

A LAST CHANCE

Prudently, HR gave the employee one last chance to submit proper FMLA certification.

The doctor sent yet another FMLA form – the third – but when HR double-checked, the doctor acknowledged she completed the section on the employee’s condition based on second-hand info from the employee herself.

The employer had had it, and fired the employee. When she sued for FMLA interference, the court tossed the case out. HR “clearly satisfied” its duty by giving the employee three chances to document her leave, the court said.

To be sure, you can never bet on a legal outcome. But if you cover yourself as this employer did, you stand a good chance of prevailing.

Cite: Novak v. MetroHealth Medical Center, No. 06-3036, 6th Cir., 9/28/07.

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