One of the most vexing problems facing employers who are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act is managing employee intermittent leaves. The potential for abuse is great, but it can be curbed if an employer is diligent and willing to take measures such as those that follow.
- Require a medical certification that it is medically necessary to take intermittent leave. Use the Department of Labor form which requires information on minimum leave required and frequency of treatments. Attach a job description or list of essential duties to assist the physician. Obtain a 2nd and, if needed, a 3rd opinion on an initial certification.
- Make sure the certification is complete and sufficient. If not, request in writing that specific issues be “cured”. If the employee doesn’t provide the information within 7 days, the leave may be delayed or denied.
- An HR professional or management official, but not the employee’s supervisor, should contact the physician to clarify handwriting, meaning, or authenticity if questionable.
- Encourage the employee to work with you in setting up a schedule that includes as many treatments as possible in off-work hours.
- Transfer the employee to a position where absences are less disruptive (as long as pay and benefits remain equivalent).
- Look for obvious abuse patterns and bring it to the certifying doctor’s attention (such as the Monday/Friday syndrome).
- Arm your first-line supervisors with a list of questions to ask when an employee calls off “sick”. This will help to ensure all absences related to the condition are counted.
- Ensure your processing systems can handle tracking of intermittent leave.
- Implement a policy that employees use up paid leave time for their intermittent FMLA absences (as well as “block” absences).
- Require recertification every 30 days, if the employee asks for an extension, if circumstances change, or if you receive information that is suspicious. Require a new certification for each 12-month period.
Intermittent FMLA leave is truly a necessity for some employees. However, employers need to do everything they can to prevent the “speeders” from misusing a year’s worth of protected absences.