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Davis Brown Employment and Labor Law Blog

HR Quick Take: Employee FMLA Certification - July 24, 2020

Q: My employees simply won’t get their FMLA certification in. What can I do?

A: The general rule is that an employee applying for Family and Medical Leave must provide the requested medical certification within 15 calendar days after the employer’s request for the documentation. Note that there is a caveat that in some instances it may not be feasible to provide documentation within this timeframe.

Difficulties accessing physician

During the current COVID-19 pandemic it may be difficult to access a physician for non-emergency issues and even without COVID-19, in certain areas specialty physicians, which are necessary for individual conditions such as mental health, may have long wait times before a patient can be seen. The employer must take these external circumstances into consideration in relationship to the timeframe for providing medical certification, so long as the employee is making “diligent and good faith efforts.” 

Employee refusal

However, if an employee refuses to communicate, refuses to participate in the process or declines to provide certification, conveniently “forgets” the certification or claiming the dog ate it, the leave may be denied. If the leave is otherwise in violation of your leave policies, the employee may be disciplined. 

Provisional certification

Sometimes during a leave wait the employer may indicate that FMLA is provisionally certified, it is being counted as FMLA until appropriate certification is received and can be more fully assessed. 

HR Quick Takes features client questions and answers from Iowa employment attorneys. If you have a question you’d like answered, email

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