Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Jun 20, 2011

Denying FMLA leave for lack of sufficient information okay


An employer has the right to require a medical certification in order to consider an employees time off as protected under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but how far can an employer push those requirements? In a recent case from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, one employer was allowed to require absolute compliance with the FMLA regulations before designating the time off as FMLA-protected.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /?>

An employee sought time off for post-traumatic stress disorder. She gave her employer a partially completed WH-380E form, along with a prescription and a letter from her psychiatrist, but the form failed to identify any medical facts in support of the diagnosis. The doctor had simply indicated that the employee needed to have 120 days off work for her condition, without any explanation as to why the employee was unable to perform her work duties. The employer informed the employee that the WH-380E form was insufficient and followed the proper time frame giving her an opportunity to cure the defects. When she refused to do so, the employer designated her time off as unexcused and eventually terminated her. The employee claimed her employers actions interfered with her FMLA rights and constituted retaliation, but the court disagreed. The FMLA regulations specifically state that the medical certification should contain the appropriate medical facts to support the diagnosis. Without that statement in the WH-380 form, the court said her employer was justified in rejecting her documentation as deficient (Lewis v. US, 9th Cir, May 2011).

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