While most employers don’t begrudge their employees taking legitimate leave, problems arise when employees begin to abuse FMLA with intermittent absences. This type of fraud is difficult to tackle due to numerous and complex Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Even so, businesses can take several steps to curtail fraudulent, intermittent leave.
Before addressing suspected leave abuse, employers must understand FMLA. The act allows eligible staff members to take 12 weeks of leave for medical reasons including to care for sick family members. FMLA also allows military caregivers to take up to 26 weeks of leave. Under FMLA, employees can take this leave without running the risk of losing their job. This includes repercussions, so employers cannot demote absent employees protected by FMLA.
Problems begin to occur when employees determine how they will take their leave, as FMLA does not make such stipulations. Employees can take their leave in one fell swoop or they can take it in intermittent blocks. If an employee opts for intermittent leave, they must provide their employers with 30 days’ notice. However, intermittent leave is not always foreseeable; in this instance, employees only need to provide notice as soon as is feasible. This last part is what allows for much of the existing FMLA abuse.
Strategies to Tackle Leave Misuse
Employers who believe staff members are misusing FMLA have some options available to them. When an employer receives notice for the need for FMLA leave from their employees, they can request a doctor’s note certifying that intermittent leave is necessary. If the employee returns with a doctor’s note, and the employer still has suspicions, they can do the following:
- Request a second medical opinion. If the second opinion differs from the first, employers can seek a third opinion to provide a majority rule.
- Request that employees provide a re-certification every 30 days or when the minimum duration of the condition passes.
- Require employees to submit a fitness-for-duty certification before allowing them to return to work with no restrictions. This helps reduce claims of relapse.
- Require employees to provide status reports on a regular basis to stay abreast of their progress and recovery.
Some leave abuse is obvious, such as when an employee is only absent on Mondays or Fridays. If an employer has reason to doubt the employee’s stated reasons for needing leave, they can request a re-certification. While most FMLA leave requests are legitimate, employers cannot afford to overlook fraud. Taking proactive steps to mitigate leave abuse helps improve workplace morale and productivity. To learn more about managing employee absences and leave requests, contact the experts at Actec.