Occasionally I spot a piece of FMLA "advice" on the Internet that just makes me chuckle - and that makes me confident that the FMLA will remain a terrific source of business for employment lawyers for a long time to come. Much of it isn't outright wrong, but ends up being so superficial that it completely misses the mark. Take a recent post on ehow.com for example.
Titled "How to prevent FMLA leave abuse," the brief post outlines five steps for addressing the perennial FMLA problem.
In step one, the author suggests: "Ask for re-certification of the FMLA leave."
OK, so far so good - recertification is certainly a useful tool for employers. But the author continues: "This can be done every thirty days for changes in "serious" medical conditions and every six months for chronic conditions."
Well, not quite. Recertification can be requested no more often than every 30 days - unless the original certification specifies a longer minimum duration for the condition, in which case the employer must wait until the specified minimum duration expires. However, an employer can always request recertification once every six months - regardless of whether the condition is "chronic" as defined under the rules. An employer can also recertification if there are significant changes in circumstances such as the duration or frequency of the absences, the nature and severity of the illness, complications, etc. Further, recertification is permitted if the employer receives information that casts doubt on the employee's stated reason fr the absence or the continuing validity of the certification. Finally, a medical certification is good for the duration of the applicable 12-month leave year. Once the year expires, an employer is entitled to ask for a new certification.
If you have been following this blog and our podcast then hopefully you can spot the other issues with this particular "how to" post for yourself. The lesson here is, when it comes to legal information on the Internet, buyer beware. Know where your information is coming from, check it against reliable sources, and understand that even good sources only provide general guidance and summaries. If you need legal advice about a specific situation, talk to a lawyer.
With that advice, here are a few of our favorite free FMLA resources on the Internet: