Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Jun 03, 2014

CALIFORNIA: Medical certification for CFRA more limited than federal FMLA

Leave Laws 

When an employer in California used the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) medical certification form, it asked for more information than what is permitted under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

When an employer in California used the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) medical certification form, it asked for more information than what is permitted under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Specifically, California employers cannot request information pertaining to “symptoms, diagnosis, hospitalization, doctor visits” and “whether any medication has been prescribed.” 

An employer in California asked its employee to provide a certification of the employee’s serious health condition using the federal FMLA form. Instead of completing the federal FMLA form the employee provided doctor’s notes. In the termination letter to the employee the employer stated that the failure to provide proper documentation lead to her discharge. The California Court of Appeals ruled in the employee’s favor finding that the request of additional information exceeded the requirement of the CFRA (Ramirez v Smurfit-Stone Container Corp, Cal App, Apr. 2014).

Tips: Asking for too much information, especially in the context of a leave of absences, can be risky. In California, if you use the federal FMLA medical certification form for employees (WH-380-E) during CFRA leave, you should cross out Question #4. If you use the FMLA medical certification form for family members (WH-380-F), you should cross out Question #3. If the employee’s leave is covered by both laws, the employee is entitled to the protections that are most beneficial to the employee.

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