FMLA Doctor’s Notes: What Unions Need to Know


Since its passage in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has saved the jobs of tens of thousands of workers—union and nonunion. Cartoon: Nic Thorkelson

By Robert M. Schwartz – May 4, 2016
sick_leaveThe law prevents employers from discharging or disciplining workers who miss work time for serious medical reasons or to care for family members. In most cases, eligible employees can take up to 60 days of leave (12 workweeks) within a 12-month period. The law can also be used to bond with new children.

Not surprisingly, employers—and the so-called “specialists” they hire to run their FMLA programs—frequently misapply the law to deny leaves or impose discipline.

A common practice is to claim that the worker failed to submit a timely or adequate medical certification. When doing so, employers often ignore the regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor…

…Here is some advice a union can offer if a worker is asked to submit an FMLA medical certification:

  • Review the certification form to familiarize yourself with the questions and to make sure the employer properly listed your job title, schedule, and job functions. Ask the employer to correct any mistakes.
  • Deliver the form to your provider immediately and explain what you are seeking: a continuous leave to recover from an accident, for example, or intermittent leave because of an anxiety disorder.

For intermittent leave, the provider must estimate how often and for how long you are likely to be absent. When appropriate, encourage the provider to estimate a substantial duration such as six months or a year and an ample number of expected flare-ups.

If you, or your family member, has a chronic condition, make sure the provider says that at least two treatment visits a year are needed for the condition.

  • If the first provider you ask fails to complete the form despite your best efforts, ask another provider to take over.
  • Be cautious when using a chiropractor. Chiropractors are only authorized to fill out FMLA certifications when performing spinal manipulations after reviewing an X-ray showing a “subluxation” (misalignment of a vertebra). If your chiropractor does not have an X-ray, make sure to obtain one.
  • Instruct the provider’s office to fax or send you the completed form. Review the responses. If there are mistakes or omissions, ask the provider to make corrections.

Fax or deliver the form to your employer, keeping a copy for yourself.

  • If it appears that your certification will be late, explain the circumstances to your employer before the deadline, including your efforts to overcome the delay, and ask for an extension.

More / Source: FMLA Doctor’s Notes: What Unions Need to Know | Labor Notes

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