The timing last night was perfect.
I just finished uploading the video from last Friday’s edition of The Employer Handbook Zoom Office Happy Hour: Cybersecurity 101 for Human Resources and Employment Lawyers to The Employer Handbook YouTube Channel, and I had shifted my attention to planning the next Zoom when I began to read this recent Eleventh Circuit decision about incomplete Family and Medical Leave Act certifications.
Most of you know that eligible employees under the FMLA can take up to 12 weeks of leave in 12 months for their serious health condition. Companies that deny employees FMLA leave benefits to which they are entitled risk FMLA interference claims.
But the FMLA gives employers the right to ascertain whether an employee’s absence qualifies for FMLA protection. Absent unusual circumstances, an employee must comply with an employer’s “usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave.”
Indeed, an employer may require employees to support their leave through a medical certification from their doctor that contains specific information. Employees must provide a complete and sufficient certification or authorize their healthcare provider to release one. Otherwise, the employer can deny the leave.
This is an FMLA cheat code that many employers ignore. Indeed, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the plaintiff could not present a tenable FMLA interference claim because the one-page document he submitted to his employer to support his request for FMLA leave omitted any information about the nature of his illness, the onset date, and whether he could return to work.
Heck, it was unclear whether the plaintiff couldn’t work.
FMLA interference claim dismissed.
Hopefully, this FMLA tool is already in your toolbox — coolest toolbox ever, amirite? But, if not, or in case you’re looking for a few more FMLA tricks and tips, you’ll want to join me and my two special guests, Daris Freeman and Jeff Nowak, for the next edition of The Employer Handbook Zoom Office Happy Hour: Leave Management Hacks and Cheat Codes on Friday, November 18, 2022, at Noon ET.
Daris is an employment lawyer who has spent more than 20 years focused on all things absence management. Ther primarily supports Unum’s Absence Management Center, which administers FMLA, paid leave, ADA, and over 200 complementary state laws.
Jeff is also an employment lawyer whose sweet spot and passion is helping employers manage employees with medical conditions and disabilities. He authors the FMLA Insights blog, which provides practical advice for employers navigating the FMLA.