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FMLA Certification

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New Third Circuit Ruling on FMLA Certification

June 22, 2015.  The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a ruling on FMLA Certification.  The court ruled that an employer interferes with an employee’s rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA“) if it does not allow the employee a chance to correct a deficient request-for-leave medical certification.

The FMLA protects certain workers’ jobs for a 12-week period if the employee or an immediate family member has a serious medical condition.  In order to receive the legal protection of their job, the employee must meet FMLA certification requirements.  The employee must have worked for that employer for more than a year and, during the past year, worked a minimum of 1,250 hours. Small employers (less than 50 full-time workers within a 75-mile radius) are not required to provide any job protection for medical leave.

When an employee requests FMLA Leave, her employer may ask for FMLA certification, which is documentation from her doctor which states (1) the date on which the serious health condition began; (2) the probable duration of the condition; (3) relevant medical facts; (4) a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of her position; (5) the dates and duration of any planned medical treatment; and (6) the expected duration of the leave.

In Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital network, Deborah Hansler, a hospital employee, began experiencing shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. She submitted a request for intermittent leave along with a brief medical certification, which predicted she would need the leave for one month.  After she took five days of leave during the course of a month, the hospital terminated her for excessive absenteeism.  Ms. Hansler brought a lawsuit against her former employer claiming violation of her rights under the FMLA.

The hospital argued that, because Ms. Hansler’s request for leave indicated that her undiagnosed condition would last for a month only and she had no right to correct the FMLA certification, she did not have a serious medical condition that entitled her to job protection.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals did not accept the hospital’s argument and held that if an employer finds the FMLA certification to be vague, ambiguous, or non-responsive, it must give the employee a chance to cure any deficiencies or risk violating the employee’s rights.

Click here to review the Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network Third Circuit Precedential Opinion.

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