So You've Applied For FMLA. Now What?

By harley erbe

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Our Family and Medical Leave Act page describes the basics of FMLA law.  We discuss the types of employees and circumstances that are covered under the FMLA.  We also review the required employer and employee notices on that page.  But what happens after you've submitted an FMLA request?

Employees are generally supposed to give their employee no less than thirty-days notice that they might need FMLA leave.  Thirty-days notice is not mandated if the need for FMLA leave is unforeseen.  If it's unforeseen medical leave an employee should notify the employer as soon as possible after the employee realizes that there may be a need to request FMLA time.  The United States Department of Labor's FMLA regulations state that “[a]n employee giving notice of the need for FMLA leave does not need to expressly assert rights under the Act or even mention the FMLA to meet his or her obligation to provide notice, though the employee would need to state a qualifying reason for the needed leave and otherwise satisfy the notice requirements.”

Employers are required to respond to FMLA requests within five days of receiving one.  An employer's FMLA response must state whether the employee is eligible for FMLA leave.  That response must also inform the employee of all FMLA rights and responsibilities.  If an employee does not meet the criteria for FMLA eligibility, the employer must notify the employee of the ineligibility and specify the eligibility criteria that the employee did not meet.

Employers may request medical certification as part of determining an employee's FMLA eligibility.  We discussed employers' right to "double check" an employee's FMLA eligibility in our blog post entitled "Can Your Employer Contact Your Doctor For Purposes Of Verifying An FMLA Leave Request?" Employers don't have to request medical certification, but they do have that option if they believe it's necessary as part of their FMLA eligibility determination.  If an employer does request medical certification, it has five days after receiving the medical certification to approve or deny the FMLA request.  If an employee has not returned a requested medical certification form within fifteen days, the employer is permitted to send written notice to the employee denying the FMLA request.

The last step of the FMLA eligibility process is the employer's final certification approving or denying the requested FMLA leave. Sometimes that's done right away if the employer already has enough information to make an eligibility decision.  Other times that decision has to wait for medical certification and review.

By Harley Erbe

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