A Texas employee who requests leave under FMLA provisions might be required by the employer to provide documentation of the need, but the law does not require the provision of medical certification unless there is a specific request. An employer is also responsible for advising an employee of the expected consequences in the event of a failure to comply with such a request.
In a recent case heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the employee handbook of a woman requesting leave referenced the need to provide medical certification. However, FMLA requires that notice of such a requirement must be given on each occasion of an employee's requesting leave. An employer is subject to time limits in initially requesting certification, which should be handled in five business days' time. An employee needs to comply with an official request within 15 days.
The employee in this case may have been aware of the handbook's indications, but when her situation was referred to the director of her human resources department, communications about the matter lacked civility and detail. The human resources professional requested updated information but failed to clarify what was needed or to provide the official forms for FMLA matters. The worker was eventually fired for abandoning her job.
As the court determined that the employee's efforts demonstrated good faith, it also noted that human resources director's actions reflected those of an employer, which allowed her to be considered liable. However, the employee's direct supervisor was not considered to be liable in this situation.
FMLA is intended to provide employees with an ability to deal with personal and family needs related to issues such as medical problems. It is important to comply with an employer's requests in a timely way, but there may be cases in which an employer steps outside of itslegal boundaries related to FMLA requests. In such cases, legal representation might be important if adverse actions are inappropriately taken.