A form with the words "FMLA, FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT." A pen is sitting on the form, and a pair of glasses.

How Often Can Your Employer Ask You to Complete FMLA Forms?

If someone needs to take time off from work for a serious medical condition, or to care for a family member, they may have a few options. 

What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected and health insurance-protected leave, per year, for a variety of reasons, including their own serious medical condition or to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. To learn more about eligibility and what qualifies for FMLA leave, read our Quick Guide to the FMLA.

What is an FMLA Medical Certification form?

When you request FMLA, your employer may ask you to complete a medical certification form. These forms include a section that needs to be completed by your health care provider explaining why you need FMLA leave. There is not one specific form that must be used to request leave and employers often create their own forms. 

The U.S. Department of Labor created a form that can be used by employees who need to take time off due to their own serious health condition and this form that can be used by employees who need to take time off to care for a family member.

Your employer must accept whatever form you provide, as long as it is complete and sufficient. To be complete, the form must include all the information that applies to your situation. To be sufficient, the information must be clear and respond to the questions asked on the form. Employers are not allowed to ask for more information than what is listed in the FMLA regulations.

What is included on the form?

All FMLA forms will likely include questions about: the contact information for the health care provider; the date the serious health condition began and how long it will last; and appropriate medical facts about the condition.

When the leave is for your own serious medical condition you may need to provide information showing that you cannot perform the essential functions of your job.

When the leave is to provide care for a family member you may need to describe the care that your family member needs.

If you are asking for intermittent leave, or leave in smaller chunks of times instead of all 12 weeks at once, you may need to provide information showing the medical necessity for intermittent or reduced schedule leave. You may also need to provide either the dates of any planned leave or an estimate of how often and for how long you will need to be out due to the condition.

Do I have to disclose my cancer diagnosis on the form?

Your employer does not necessarily need to know about your cancer diagnosis if you do not want to share that information. If you are concerned about disclosing your diagnosis to your employer, there are options for protecting your privacy. 

For example, if you are experiencing pain and neuropathy as side effects that are causing a need for leave, your health care provider could focus on discussing the pain and neuropathy on the medical certification form, and not include information about your cancer diagnosis. 

If you prefer to keep your cancer diagnosis confidential, you may not want to have your oncologist fill out the form. Under the FMLA, there are multiple health care providers who can complete the form, including primary care physicians or clinical social workers, but make sure to discuss your concerns about disclosure with the provider who fills out your form. 

For more information about disclosure, check out our Quick Guide to Disclosure, Privacy, & Medical Certification Forms. Health care providers helping patients make decisions about disclosure may find this Quick Guide to Helping Navigate Patients Through Disclosure Decisions useful. 

Can your employer contact your health care provider?

Your employer, but not your direct supervisor, can contact the health care provider who signed the form. However, they are only allowed to verify that the health care provider completed and signed the form and clarify the information on the form, if needed. They are not allowed to ask for more information about your medical condition. 

Can your employer ask for a second opinion?

If your employer does not think that the FMLA certification is valid, they can ask for a second opinion, at their own expense, from a health care provider that they choose. 

If the second opinion is different from your original medical certification, you and the employer can choose a third provider together to provide a third opinion at your employer’s expense, which is final and must be used by the employer.

When can your employer ask you to complete an FMLA medical certification form?

Your employer can request an FMLA form when you first ask for FMLA leave, or later, if it questions whether the leave qualifies under the FMLA or thinks that the leave requested is too long. Your employer must give you at least 15 calendar days to return the form to them once they have asked for it.

Employers cannot ask for a FMLA form to be completed when someone is requesting leave to bond with a new baby or a foster or adoptive child.

When can an employer ask you to complete a FMLA form again?

Your employer may ask you to “recertify” your FMLA leave after a period of time. This means you will have your health care provider complete a new FMLA form confirming that you still need time off. 

Typically, an employer has to wait 30 days before requesting FMLA recertification and can only request it when you are still taking leave. If your original certification said that the minimum duration of the serious health condition would be longer than 30 days, then the employer usually has to wait until after the minimum time has run before asking for recertification. 

For example, if the certification said that you would need a minimum of 45 days to recover from surgery, the employer has to wait until after the 45 days are up to request recertification. 

In all cases, the employer is allowed to request a recertification every six months, even when the duration of the condition is expected to be longer or is indefinite. For example, if you expect to need intermittent leave once a week for a year for treatment, your employer can request a recertification every six months, even though your medical condition is expected to last longer than that.

The employer may ask you to recertify in fewer than 30 days if you request an extension of leave, if the circumstances described in your prior certification change significantly, or if the employer has information that suggests that you no longer need the leave or that the certification is no longer valid.

Your employer must give you at least 15 calendar days to submit an FMLA recertification.

What is included in a recertification form?

The recertification form usually includes the same questions that were on the original form. The same form you used the first time can be completed again for recertification. 

However, as a part of the recertification process, the employer is also allowed to give the health care provider a list of dates you took leave and ask the health care provider to confirm that the leave you took is consistent with your need for leave based on the serious health condition that you or your family member are being treated for.

While the employer can ask for a second and sometimes third opinion during the original FMLA certification process, they may not request a second or third medical opinion for recertification.

For more information, see our Work & Cancer Materials & Resources.

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through eventsmaterials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis.

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