If you are in HR, you probably know how challenging or frustrating intermittent FMLA leave can be.
Oak Harbor Freight Lines was faced with two employees taking off Mondays and Fridays under the disguise of intermittent FMLA. So, this company added documentation requirement to their leave policy, stating employees must provide a doctor’s note for every absence they wanted to be counted as an FMLA absence.
Although the company was justified in their concern that the employees’ patterns of taking off Mondays and Fridays was a red flag of FMLA abuse, by requiring employees to provide a doctor’s note for every FMLA absence was a violation of federal law.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ultimately sided with the employees. It stated that the employer “may not request additional information from the health care provider” outside of a request for recertification once an employee hands in “complete and sufficient” medical certification provided by a health care provider. The court went on to say that Oak Harbor was essentially requesting recertification over and over again, and the law only allows for recertification on a “reasonable basis,” which is “no more often than every 30 days.” The judge also stated that the recertification process protects a company’s concern over leave abuse.
It is important to remember that the FMLA gives employers room to push back on time-off requests when it’s suspected medical treatment could be scheduled during non-work hours. Asking for recertification is OK, assuming it’s done on a reasonable basis. But requiring a note from a doctor for every intermittent FMLA-related absence is not.