You’re 99.9% certain Barney is faking it. But he’s gotten a sympathetic doctor to certify that he does, indeed, have a condition known as fibromyalgia, where he hurts all over and may have to take intermittent FMLA leave at any time.

At any time – including the most inconvenient times for his manager and the organization, like on Mondays or Fridays, or whenever there’s a lot of work.

What should you do? Tell Barney you’re onto his little tricks and if he pulls another absence like that, you’ll write him up?

Avoiding the buzzsaw
No, no, no, no. That way lies untold grief in the form of litigation, lawyers, judges and juries. The Family and Medical Leave Act protects the leave rights of people who have serious medical conditions and can get a doctor to certify that they need the time off. You don’t want to run into an FMLA buzzsaw.

But there is something HR and managers can do at this point.

It has to do with FMLA certification and, especially, recertification: the process whereby employees have to prove – and sometimes, re-prove – that they really have a condition that gives them the right to FMLA time off.

Play by the rules
If managers understand FMLA certification/recertification, and apply the rules, they’ll:

  • Put everyone on notice that your organization is vigilant about FMLA leave
  • Legally dissuade employees’ doctors from giving them license to goof off
  • Make sure slackers feel the pinch, pressuring them to give up their FMLA “game.”

In Barney’s case, here’s what his manager could do:

Barney’s doctor last certified his need for FMLA leave two months ago. Under the FMLA rules, the manager has a right to ask for recertification every 30 days — unless Barney’s doctor has stated that his condition will last, say, three months, in which case the manager has to wait for that length of time before asking for recertification. (You can ask for recertification every six months no matter how long the doctor says the condition will last.)

So the manager goes ahead and asks for recertification. And 30 days later, does it again. And 30 days after that, asks yet again.

Getting the message across
Barney gets the message: This particular manager isn’t going to be played for a fool, and all these doctor visits are starting to get expensive. So suddenly, Barney is “better,” and doesn’t need the FMLA leave anymore.

Clearly, knowing how to use the FMLA certification rules gives you a valuable edge in dealing with that minority of employees who try to abuse the law.

photo credit: Lara604

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