Can Your FMLA Request Be Denied Because You Used the Wrong Form?

Apr 12 2023

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh!

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda! What are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: We’re talking about the FMLA. I had a potential client come in last week. She tells me that her employer denied her request for FMLA leave because her request was not on the appropriate form. Can they do that?

Goodbaum: Probably not.

The key to the FMLA is providing the information that your employer needs, not the specific form your employer requires. So, initially, to establish your entitlement to the FMLA, you just need to provide your employer with enough notice – with enough information that they know that the FMLA is implicated. You don’t have to give them your diagnosis or the diagnosis of your family member. You do have to tell them somebody’s been to the doctor and they’ve been told to stay home for more than three days. That’s what implicates the FMLA.

At that point, your employer is probably going to ask you for information from the doctor themselves. The employer is probably going to use a medical certification form. In fact, the federal Department of Labor provides sample forms employers can use. Those forms include a lot of information that is required to establish your entitlement to the FMLA. That information includes: the contact information for the employer; when the condition began; how long it’s expected to last; some of the symptoms of the condition that establish that it’s a serious health condition; whether it involves you – the employee – or your family member; whether the leave is going to be continuous or intermittent; and if it’s intermittent – that means not all at once – some additional information.

But none of that information needs to be provided on any particular form, and your employer can’t require you to provide it on any particular form. All they can require you to do is provide the information. If you provide it in a handwritten letter, or your doctor provides it in a handwritten letter rather than using a form, that’s what your employer has to accept. And if your employer refuses to accept the information from you because it’s not on the form that they mandate, they might be engaged in FMLA interference, which is a prohibited action under the Family and Medical Leave Act itself. That’s because an employer is not allowed to interfere with an employee’s entitlement to their FMLA leave.

If you have an employer who’s frustrating your ability to get FMLA leave, it’s time to talk with an employment lawyer.

DeMatteis: Great, Josh. Thank you so much, and thank you for watching. Take care.

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