As a business owner, you want to be as fair and accommodating as possible to your employees, but you also want to be sure that in your efforts you are not taken advantage of. While there are several policies and procedures you can put in place to ensure that everyone plays fairly, you may sometimes feel as if you are treating your workers more like school children than paid employees. This is especially the case when you get FMLA requests. You want to ask the requesting employee for proof that he or she needs the extended leave in the form of a doctor’s note, but you wonder if that is insulting, or worse, against the law. You can rest assured that your requesting a doctor’s note for FMLA leave is not only not insulting, but also, it is necessary.
Provisions and Guarantees of the FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993 to protect employees who were required to take extended leave either to care for sick family members or to recover from serious illnesses themselves. While the leave is unpaid, it does guarantee that, when an employee returns within 12 weeks, his or her job will still be there. To evoke one’s rights under the FMLA, there are certain requirements and conditions that both employee and employer must meet.
The FMLA guarantees workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick family member or themselves. It is important to note that the 12 weeks can be taken intermittently, meaning that an employee is entitled to take up to 12 weeks’ worth of days off for doctor’s appointments, treatment sessions, etc. An employee also has the right to work reduced work hours if his or her doctor feels that is necessary.
The Doctor’s Note Requirement
In exchange for such guarantees, employers have the right and responsibility to request a doctor’s note. This requirement is in place to ensure that American workers do not abuse the FMLA by taking time off when they really do not need to. That said, the requirement does not go uncheck.
Employers cannot request doctor’s notes for every single day or period of time that an employee requests off. Employers are only permitted to request notes every 30 days and when an employee is on leave for an extended period of time (meaning more than 30 days). If an employee brings a note stating that intermittent leave or reduced work hours will be required, the employer is not legally allowed to request subsequent notes. However, if an employee wishes to enjoy this privilege, he or she must request that his or her doctor include expected amount of time needed and approximate dates on the original note.
Employers ARE allowed to implement attendance policies if they feel as if employees are taking too many days off work for medical reasons. If employees agree to, say, providing a doctor’s note every time they are out of the office for medical reasons, then the employer is free to enforce said policy. However, this policy must be enacted across the board, and no one or two individuals may be singled out. Singling out employees for suspect attendance is a form of discrimination.
Of course, the rules and regulations laid out in the FMLA are far more comprehensive than what is shared in this article. To further better understand your rights as an Alabama employee, contact the business attorneys at Cloud Willis & Ellis to schedule your consultation today.