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Can my employer ask me for a doctor's note to approve leave?

If you or a family member gets sick, or if you are about to welcome a new baby into your family, you would be wise to understand your options for taking job-protected leave. In accordance with federal law and the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain employees can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their job.

However, employees need to be sure they are eligible for FMLA leave and seek the approval of their employers. One thing you may be asked to do if you are an employee looking to take FMLA leave is to provide your employer with certification.

Certification refers to an official notification from a health care provider stating that you -- or your family member -- have a serious medical condition. If your employer requests this, you will need to submit the following information, usually within about 15 days of the request:

  • When the condition began
  • Expected timeline for how long it will last
  • Details on how the illness could impact a worker's ability to perform job functions
  • Suggestions for care and treatment options
  • Contact information for the care provider

If any of this information is inaccurate, incomplete or determined to be too vague, the employer can request more information, which must be provided within about seven days.

It is very possible that your employer will not ask for this certification, but they can and many do. However, it should be noted that such a request cannot be made for requests involving leave to bond with a new child.

If you have questions about your employer requesting certification and what that entails, it can be wise to consult an attorney familiar with the rules and protections established by the FMLA. With legal guidance, you can work to ensure your job and your leave are all protected when you take time away to deal with family and medical matters.

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