Our clients often ask us for ways they can prevent FMLA abuse. Every year the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) helps employees manage serious health issues and care for ill family members. With this comes a major frustration for employers— suspected abuse. A majority of companies believe they may have granted unfounded leave to an employee in the past. Abusing the federally protected right to work leave is an issue that many employers are faced with, but there are ways to detect possible FMLA abuse and steps to curb and prevent fraud.
Signs Indicating Possible Abuse
- Frequent leave requests immediately preceding or following a weekend
- FMLA leave requests after denial of vacation on the same or similar days
- Numerous sudden or abrupt leave requests
- Sightings of an employee on leave engaged in strenuous activities, or activities indicating the employee is capable of performing normal job responsibilities
- Repeated injuries/re-injuries shortly after returning from leave
Tips to Prevent Abuse
- Require employees to use all paid leave before taking unpaid FMLA. Employees are less likely to abuse FMLA if they have to use up vacation time before doing so.
- Obtain medical certification directly from the doctor. The Seventh Circuit Court has held that an employer does not interfere with FMLA rights by requiring that the completed certification form be faxed or mailed directly by the doctor.
- Require medical certifications within 15 days of taking leave. Employers that are specific about the documentation needed to take FMLA leave as well as the penalties for not complying have a much easier time taking action if the employee fails to do so.
- Have employees provide notice for expected FMLA leave. Requiring advance notice gives the employer the time to plan around future absences, minimizing abuse.
- Establish attendance and call-in policies for all leave. Consistent enforcement of leave policies, including FMLA, can be designed to prevent fraud.
- Obtain “fitness for duty” certifications for employees when they return from FMLA leave. However, this cannot be required of an employee if returning from intermittent FMLA leave.
For more information on how we can help prevent FMLA abuse, contact Aisha Hartford, Director of Client Services at 800-462-6435 ext. 233.