Medical certifications may just be the most effective tool in your arsenal for combating abuse of leave rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and its California counterpart, the California Family Rights Act. They provide valuable insight into whether a claimed condition qualifies as a serious health condition.
Surprisingly, many employers don't take advantage of this powerful weapon for combating abuse. As a result, they're left second-guessing whether an employee's ailment qualifies them for protected leave.
Additionally, if an employee presents you with a doctor's note for an absence, it's in your best interest to request a medical certification. Otherwise, if you accept a note stating that an employee can't work and you later terminate that employee -- for excessive absenteeism, for example -- it's quite likely that a court will find that you forfeited the right to challenge an assertion that she was covered under FMLA/CFRA in the first place.
Keep in mind, too, that as the result of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning laws restricting same-sex marriages, employers will need to afford FMLA and CFRA benefits to employees with same-sex spouses. In addition to enforcing the FMLA and CFRA, more and more, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing are looking at leaves of absence as something that is a reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities. As such, managing the leave process up front is increasingly important to stay in compliance with the law.
In order to stay in compliance, it's crucial for California employers to get the information needed to properly designate absences, as well as practical, legally sound strategies for obtaining it.
If your business is suffering from excessive employee absenteeism or if you wish to learn more about how to use medical certifications, please contact the employment lawyers at Schneiders & Associates, L.L.P.