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e-CFR data is current as of July 9, 2020

Title 29Subtitle BChapter VSubchapter CPart 825 → Subpart C


Title 29: Labor
PART 825—THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT OF 1993


Subpart C—Employee and Employer Rights and Obligations Under the Act


Contents
§825.300   Employer notice requirements.
§825.301   Designation of FMLA leave.
§825.302   Employee notice requirements for foreseeable FMLA leave.
§825.303   Employee notice requirements for unforeseeable FMLA leave.
§825.304   Employee failure to provide notice.
§825.305   Certification, general rule.
§825.306   Content of medical certification for leave taken because of an employee's own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member.
§825.307   Authentication and clarification of medical certification for leave taken because of an employee's own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member; second and third opinions.
§825.308   Recertifications for leave taken because of an employee's own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member.
§825.309   Certification for leave taken because of a qualifying exigency.
§825.310   Certification for leave taken to care for a covered servicemember (military caregiver leave).
§825.311   Intent to return to work.
§825.312   Fitness-for-duty certification.
§825.313   Failure to provide certification.

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§825.300   Employer notice requirements.

(a) General notice. (1) Every employer covered by the FMLA is required to post and keep posted on its premises, in conspicuous places where employees are employed, a notice explaining the Act's provisions and providing information concerning the procedures for filing complaints of violations of the Act with the Wage and Hour Division. The notice must be posted prominently where it can be readily seen by employees and applicants for employment. The poster and the text must be large enough to be easily read and contain fully legible text. Electronic posting is sufficient to meet this posting requirement as long as it otherwise meets the requirements of this section. An employer that willfully violates the posting requirement may be assessed a civil money penalty by the Wage and Hour Division not to exceed $176 for each separate offense.

(2) Covered employers must post this general notice even if no employees are eligible for FMLA leave.

(3) If an FMLA-covered employer has any eligible employees, it shall also provide this general notice to each employee by including the notice in employee handbooks or other written guidance to employees concerning employee benefits or leave rights, if such written materials exist, or by distributing a copy of the general notice to each new employee upon hiring. In either case, distribution may be accomplished electronically.

(4) To meet the requirements of paragraph (a)(3) of this section, employers may duplicate the text of the Department's prototype notice (WHD Publication 1420) or may use another format so long as the information provided includes, at a minimum, all of the information contained in that notice. Where an employer's workforce is comprised of a significant portion of workers who are not literate in English, the employer shall provide the general notice in a language in which the employees are literate. Prototypes are available from the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division or on the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd. Employers furnishing FMLA notices to sensory-impaired individuals must also comply with all applicable requirements under Federal or State law.

(b) Eligibility notice. (1) When an employee requests FMLA leave, or when the employer acquires knowledge that an employee's leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee of the employee's eligibility to take FMLA leave within five business days, absent extenuating circumstances. See §825.110 for definition of an eligible employee and §825.801 for special hours of service eligibility requirements for airline flight crews. Employee eligibility is determined (and notice must be provided) at the commencement of the first instance of leave for each FMLA-qualifying reason in the applicable 12-month period. See §§825.127(c) and 825.200(b). All FMLA absences for the same qualifying reason are considered a single leave and employee eligibility as to that reason for leave does not change during the applicable 12-month period.

(2) The eligibility notice must state whether the employee is eligible for FMLA leave as defined in §825.110. If the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, the notice must state at least one reason why the employee is not eligible, including as applicable the number of months the employee has been employed by the employer, the hours of service with the employer during the 12-month period, and whether the employee is employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of that worksite. Notification of eligibility may be oral or in writing; employers may use optional Form WH-381 (Notice of Eligibility and Rights and Responsibility) to provide such notification to employees. Prototypes are available from the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division or on the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd. The employer is obligated to translate this notice in any situation in which it is obligated to do so in §825.300(a)(4).

(3) If, at the time an employee provides notice of a subsequent need for FMLA leave during the applicable 12-month period due to a different FMLA-qualifying reason, and the employee's eligibility status has not changed, no additional eligibility notice is required. If, however, the employee's eligibility status has changed (e.g., if the employee has not met the hours of service requirement in the 12 months preceding the commencement of leave for the subsequent qualifying reason or the size of the workforce at the worksite has dropped below 50 employees), the employer must notify the employee of the change in eligibility status within five business days, absent extenuating circumstances.

(c) Rights and responsibilities notice. (1) Employers shall provide written notice detailing the specific expectations and obligations of the employee and explaining any consequences of a failure to meet these obligations. The employer is obligated to translate this notice in any situation in which it is obligated to do so in §825.300(a)(4). This notice shall be provided to the employee each time the eligibility notice is provided pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section. If leave has already begun, the notice should be mailed to the employee's address of record. Such specific notice must include, as appropriate:

(i) That the leave may be designated and counted against the employee's annual FMLA leave entitlement if qualifying (see §§825.300(c) and 825.301) and the applicable 12-month period for FMLA entitlement (see §§825.127(c), 825.200(b), (f), and (g));

(ii) Any requirements for the employee to furnish certification of a serious health condition, serious injury or illness, or qualifying exigency arising out of covered active duty or call to covered active duty status, and the consequences of failing to do so (see §§825.305, 825.309, 825.310, 825.313);

(iii) The employee's right to substitute paid leave, whether the employer will require the substitution of paid leave, the conditions related to any substitution, and the employee's entitlement to take unpaid FMLA leave if the employee does not meet the conditions for paid leave (see §825.207);

(iv) Any requirement for the employee to make any premium payments to maintain health benefits and the arrangements for making such payments (see §825.210), and the possible consequences of failure to make such payments on a timely basis (i.e., the circumstances under which coverage may lapse);

(v) The employee's status as a key employee and the potential consequence that restoration may be denied following FMLA leave, explaining the conditions required for such denial (see §825.218);

(vi) The employee's rights to maintenance of benefits during the FMLA leave and restoration to the same or an equivalent job upon return from FMLA leave (see §§825.214 and 825.604); and

(vii) The employee's potential liability for payment of health insurance premiums paid by the employer during the employee's unpaid FMLA leave if the employee fails to return to work after taking FMLA leave (see §825.213).

(2) The notice of rights and responsibilities may include other information—e.g., whether the employer will require periodic reports of the employee's status and intent to return to work—but is not required to do so.

(3) The notice of rights and responsibilities may be accompanied by any required certification form.

(4) If the specific information provided by the notice of rights and responsibilities changes, the employer shall, within five business days of receipt of the employee's first notice of need for leave subsequent to any change, provide written notice referencing the prior notice and setting forth any of the information in the notice of rights and responsibilities that has changed. For example, if the initial leave period was paid leave and the subsequent leave period would be unpaid leave, the employer may need to give notice of the arrangements for making premium payments.

(5) Employers are also expected to responsively answer questions from employees concerning their rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.

(6) A prototype notice of rights and responsibilities may be obtained from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division or from the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd. Employers may adapt the prototype notice as appropriate to meet these notice requirements. The notice of rights and responsibilities may be distributed electronically so long as it otherwise meets the requirements of this section.

(d) Designation notice. (1) The employer is responsible in all circumstances for designating leave as FMLA-qualifying, and for giving notice of the designation to the employee as provided in this section. When the employer has enough information to determine whether the leave is being taken for a FMLA-qualifying reason (e.g., after receiving a certification), the employer must notify the employee whether the leave will be designated and will be counted as FMLA leave within five business days absent extenuating circumstances. Only one notice of designation is required for each FMLA-qualifying reason per applicable 12-month period, regardless of whether the leave taken due to the qualifying reason will be a continuous block of leave or intermittent or reduced schedule leave. If the employer determines that the leave will not be designated as FMLA-qualifying (e.g., if the leave is not for a reason covered by FMLA or the FMLA leave entitlement has been exhausted), the employer must notify the employee of that determination. If the employer requires paid leave to be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave, or that paid leave taken under an existing leave plan be counted as FMLA leave, the employer must inform the employee of this designation at the time of designating the FMLA leave.

(2) If the employer has sufficient information to designate the leave as FMLA leave immediately after receiving notice of the employee's need for leave, the employer may provide the employee with the designation notice at that time.

(3) If the employer will require the employee to present a fitness-for-duty certification to be restored to employment, the employer must provide notice of such requirement with the designation notice. If the employer will require that the fitness-for-duty certification address the employee's ability to perform the essential functions of the employee's position, the employer must so indicate in the designation notice, and must include a list of the essential functions of the employee's position. See §825.312. If the employer handbook or other written documents (if any) describing the employer's leave policies clearly provide that a fitness-for-duty certification will be required in specific circumstances (e.g., by stating that fitness-for-duty certification will be required in all cases of back injuries for employees in a certain occupation), the employer is not required to provide written notice of the requirement with the designation notice, but must provide oral notice no later than with the designation notice.

(4) The designation notice must be in writing. A prototype designation notice may be obtained from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division or from the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd. If the leave is not designated as FMLA leave because it does not meet the requirements of the Act, the notice to the employee that the leave is not designated as FMLA leave may be in the form of a simple written statement.

(5) If the information provided by the employer to the employee in the designation notice changes (e.g., the employee exhausts the FMLA leave entitlement), the employer shall provide, within five business days of receipt of the employee's first notice of need for leave subsequent to any change, written notice of the change.

(6) The employer must notify the employee of the amount of leave counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement. If the amount of leave needed is known at the time the employer designates the leave as FMLA-qualifying, the employer must notify the employee of the number of hours, days, or weeks that will be counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement in the designation notice. If it is not possible to provide the hours, days, or weeks that will be counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement (such as in the case of unforeseeable intermittent leave), then the employer must provide notice of the amount of leave counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement upon the request by the employee, but no more often than once in a 30-day period and only if leave was taken in that period. The notice of the amount of leave counted against the employee's FMLA entitlement may be oral or in writing. If such notice is oral, it shall be confirmed in writing, no later than the following payday (unless the payday is less than one week after the oral notice, in which case the notice must be no later than the subsequent payday). Such written notice may be in any form, including a notation on the employee's pay stub.

(e) Consequences of failing to provide notice. Failure to follow the notice requirements set forth in this section may constitute an interference with, restraint, or denial of the exercise of an employee's FMLA rights. An employer may be liable for compensation and benefits lost by reason of the violation, for other actual monetary losses sustained as a direct result of the violation, and for appropriate equitable or other relief, including employment, reinstatement, promotion, or any other relief tailored to the harm suffered See §825.400(c).

[78 FR 8902, Feb. 6, 2013, as amended at at 81 FR 43452, July 1, 2016; 82 FR 5382, Jan. 18, 2017; 82 FR 14, Jan. 2, 2018; 84 FR 219, Jan. 23, 2019; 85 FR 2298, Jan. 15, 2020]

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§825.301   Designation of FMLA leave.

(a) Employer responsibilities. The employer's decision to designate leave as FMLA-qualifying must be based only on information received from the employee or the employee's spokesperson (e.g., if the employee is incapacitated, the employee's spouse, adult child, parent, doctor, etc., may provide notice to the employer of the need to take FMLA leave). In any circumstance where the employer does not have sufficient information about the reason for an employee's use of leave, the employer should inquire further of the employee or the spokesperson to ascertain whether leave is potentially FMLA-qualifying. Once the employer has acquired knowledge that the leave is being taken for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee as provided in §825.300(d).

(b) Employee responsibilities. An employee giving notice of the need for FMLA leave does not need to expressly assert rights under the Act or even mention the FMLA to meet his or her obligation to provide notice, though the employee would need to state a qualifying reason for the needed leave and otherwise satisfy the notice requirements set forth in §825.302 or §825.303 depending on whether the need for leave is foreseeable or unforeseeable. An employee giving notice of the need for FMLA leave must explain the reasons for the needed leave so as to allow the employer to determine whether the leave qualifies under the Act. If the employee fails to explain the reasons, leave may be denied. In many cases, in explaining the reasons for a request to use leave, especially when the need for the leave was unexpected or unforeseen, an employee will provide sufficient information for the employer to designate the leave as FMLA leave. An employee using accrued paid leave may in some cases not spontaneously explain the reasons or their plans for using their accrued leave. However, if an employee requesting to use paid leave for a FMLA-qualifying reason does not explain the reason for the leave and the employer denies the employee's request, the employee will need to provide sufficient information to establish a FMLA-qualifying reason for the needed leave so that the employer is aware that the leave may not be denied and may designate that the paid leave be appropriately counted against (substituted for) the employee's FMLA leave entitlement. Similarly, an employee using accrued paid vacation leave who seeks an extension of unpaid leave for a FMLA-qualifying reason will need to state the reason. If this is due to an event which occurred during the period of paid leave, the employer may count the leave used after the FMLA-qualifying reason against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement.

(c) Disputes. If there is a dispute between an employer and an employee as to whether leave qualifies as FMLA leave, it should be resolved through discussions between the employee and the employer. Such discussions and the decision must be documented.

(d) Retroactive designation. If an employer does not designate leave as required by §825.300, the employer may retroactively designate leave as FMLA leave with appropriate notice to the employee as required by §825.300 provided that the employer's failure to timely designate leave does not cause harm or injury to the employee. In all cases where leave would qualify for FMLA protections, an employer and an employee can mutually agree that leave be retroactively designated as FMLA leave.

(e) Remedies. If an employer's failure to timely designate leave in accordance with §825.300 causes the employee to suffer harm, it may constitute an interference with, restraint of, or denial of the exercise of an employee's FMLA rights. An employer may be liable for compensation and benefits lost by reason of the violation, for other actual monetary losses sustained as a direct result of the violation, and for appropriate equitable or other relief, including employment, reinstatement, promotion, or any other relief tailored to the harm suffered. See §825.400(c). For example, if an employer that was put on notice that an employee needed FMLA leave failed to designate the leave properly, but the employee's own serious health condition prevented him or her from returning to work during that time period regardless of the designation, an employee may not be able to show that the employee suffered harm as a result of the employer's actions. However, if an employee took leave to provide care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition believing it would not count toward his or her FMLA entitlement, and the employee planned to later use that FMLA leave to provide care for a spouse who would need assistance when recovering from surgery planned for a later date, the employee may be able to show that harm has occurred as a result of the employer's failure to designate properly. The employee might establish this by showing that he or she would have arranged for an alternative caregiver for the seriously ill son or daughter if the leave had been designated timely.

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§825.302   Employee notice requirements for foreseeable FMLA leave.

(a) Timing of notice. An employee must provide the employer at least 30 days advance notice before FMLA leave is to begin if the need for the leave is foreseeable based on an expected birth, placement for adoption or foster care, planned medical treatment for a serious health condition of the employee or of a family member, or the planned medical treatment for a serious injury or illness of a covered servicemember. If 30 days notice is not practicable, such as because of a lack of knowledge of approximately when leave will be required to begin, a change in circumstances, or a medical emergency, notice must be given as soon as practicable. For example, an employee's health condition may require leave to commence earlier than anticipated before the birth of a child. Similarly, little opportunity for notice may be given before placement for adoption. For foreseeable leave due to a qualifying exigency notice must be provided as soon as practicable, regardless of how far in advance such leave is foreseeable. Whether FMLA leave is to be continuous or is to be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule basis, notice need only be given one time, but the employee shall advise the employer as soon as practicable if dates of scheduled leave change or are extended, or were initially unknown. In those cases where the employee is required to provide at least 30 days notice of foreseeable leave and does not do so, the employee shall explain the reasons why such notice was not practicable upon a request from the employer for such information.

(b) As soon as practicable means as soon as both possible and practical, taking into account all of the facts and circumstances in the individual case. When an employee becomes aware of a need for FMLA leave less than 30 days in advance, it should be practicable for the employee to provide notice of the need for leave either the same day or the next business day. In all cases, however, the determination of when an employee could practicably provide notice must take into account the individual facts and circumstances.

(c) Content of notice. An employee shall provide at least verbal notice sufficient to make the employer aware that the employee needs FMLA-qualifying leave, and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave. Depending on the situation, such information may include that a condition renders the employee unable to perform the functions of the job; that the employee is pregnant or has been hospitalized overnight; whether the employee or the employee's family member is under the continuing care of a health care provider; if the leave is due to a qualifying exigency, that a military member is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty), and that the requested leave is for one of the reasons listed in §825.126(b); if the leave is for a family member, that the condition renders the family member unable to perform daily activities, or that the family member is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness; and the anticipated duration of the absence, if known. When an employee seeks leave for the first time for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee need not expressly assert rights under the FMLA or even mention the FMLA. When an employee seeks leave due to a FMLA-qualifying reason, for which the employer has previously provided FMLA-protected leave, the employee must specifically reference the qualifying reason for leave or the need for FMLA leave. In all cases, the employer should inquire further of the employee if it is necessary to have more information about whether FMLA leave is being sought by the employee, and obtain the necessary details of the leave to be taken. In the case of medical conditions, the employer may find it necessary to inquire further to determine if the leave is because of a serious health condition and may request medical certification to support the need for such leave. See §825.305. An employer may also request certification to support the need for leave for a qualifying exigency or for military caregiver leave. See §§825.309, 825.310). When an employee has been previously certified for leave due to more than one FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer may need to inquire further to determine for which qualifying reason the leave is needed. An employee has an obligation to respond to an employer's questions designed to determine whether an absence is potentially FMLA-qualifying. Failure to respond to reasonable employer inquiries regarding the leave request may result in denial of FMLA protection if the employer is unable to determine whether the leave is FMLA-qualifying.

(d) Complying with employer policy. An employer may require an employee to comply with the employer's usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave, absent unusual circumstances. For example, an employer may require that written notice set forth the reasons for the requested leave, the anticipated duration of the leave, and the anticipated start of the leave. An employee also may be required by an employer's policy to contact a specific individual. Unusual circumstances would include situations such as when an employee is unable to comply with the employer's policy that requests for leave should be made by contacting a specific number because on the day the employee needs to provide notice of his or her need for FMLA leave there is no one to answer the call-in number and the voice mail box is full. Where an employee does not comply with the employer's usual notice and procedural requirements, and no unusual circumstances justify the failure to comply, FMLA-protected leave may be delayed or denied. However, FMLA-protected leave may not be delayed or denied where the employer's policy requires notice to be given sooner than set forth in paragraph (a) of this section and the employee provides timely notice as set forth in paragraph (a) of this section.

(e) Scheduling planned medical treatment. When planning medical treatment, the employee must consult with the employer and make a reasonable effort to schedule the treatment so as not to disrupt unduly the employer's operations, subject to the approval of the health care provider. Employees are ordinarily expected to consult with their employers prior to the scheduling of treatment in order to work out a treatment schedule which best suits the needs of both the employer and the employee. For example, if an employee who provides notice of the need to take FMLA leave on an intermittent basis for planned medical treatment neglects to consult with the employer to make a reasonable effort to arrange the schedule of treatments so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations, the employer may initiate discussions with the employee and require the employee to attempt to make such arrangements, subject to the approval of the health care provider. See §§825.203 and 825.205.

(f) Intermittent leave or leave on a reduced leave schedule must be medically necessary due to a serious health condition or a serious injury or illness. An employee shall advise the employer, upon request, of the reasons why the intermittent/reduced leave schedule is necessary and of the schedule for treatment, if applicable. The employee and employer shall attempt to work out a schedule for such leave that meets the employee's needs without unduly disrupting the employer's operations, subject to the approval of the health care provider.

(g) An employer may waive employees' FMLA notice requirements. See §825.304.

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§825.303   Employee notice requirements for unforeseeable FMLA leave.

(a) Timing of notice. When the approximate timing of the need for leave is not foreseeable, an employee must provide notice to the employer as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the particular case. It generally should be practicable for the employee to provide notice of leave that is unforeseeable within the time prescribed by the employer's usual and customary notice requirements applicable to such leave. See §825.303(c). Notice may be given by the employee's spokesperson (e.g., spouse, adult family member, or other responsible party) if the employee is unable to do so personally. For example, if an employee's child has a severe asthma attack and the employee takes the child to the emergency room, the employee would not be required to leave his or her child in order to report the absence while the child is receiving emergency treatment. However, if the child's asthma attack required only the use of an inhaler at home followed by a period of rest, the employee would be expected to call the employer promptly after ensuring the child has used the inhaler.

(b) Content of notice. An employee shall provide sufficient information for an employer to reasonably determine whether the FMLA may apply to the leave request. Depending on the situation, such information may include that a condition renders the employee unable to perform the functions of the job; that the employee is pregnant or has been hospitalized overnight; whether the employee or the employee's family member is under the continuing care of a health care provider; if the leave is due to a qualifying exigency, that a military member is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty), that the requested leave is for one of the reasons listed in §825.126(b), and the anticipated duration of the absence; or if the leave is for a family member that the condition renders the family member unable to perform daily activities or that the family member is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness; and the anticipated duration of the absence, if known. When an employee seeks leave for the first time for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee need not expressly assert rights under the FMLA or even mention the FMLA. When an employee seeks leave due to a qualifying reason, for which the employer has previously provided the employee FMLA-protected leave, the employee must specifically reference either the qualifying reason for leave or the need for FMLA leave. Calling in “sick” without providing more information will not be considered sufficient notice to trigger an employer's obligations under the Act. The employer will be expected to obtain any additional required information through informal means. An employee has an obligation to respond to an employer's questions designed to determine whether an absence is potentially FMLA-qualifying. Failure to respond to reasonable employer inquiries regarding the leave request may result in denial of FMLA protection if the employer is unable to determine whether the leave is FMLA-qualifying.

(c) Complying with employer policy. When the need for leave is not foreseeable, an employee must comply with the employer's usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave, absent unusual circumstances. For example, an employer may require employees to call a designated number or a specific individual to request leave. However, if an employee requires emergency medical treatment, he or she would not be required to follow the call-in procedure until his or her condition is stabilized and he or she has access to, and is able to use, a phone. Similarly, in the case of an emergency requiring leave because of a FMLA-qualifying reason, written advance notice pursuant to an employer's internal rules and procedures may not be required when FMLA leave is involved. If an employee does not comply with the employer's usual notice and procedural requirements, and no unusual circumstances justify the failure to comply, FMLA-protected leave may be delayed or denied.

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§825.304   Employee failure to provide notice.

(a) Proper notice required. In all cases, in order for the onset of an employee's FMLA leave to be delayed due to lack of required notice, it must be clear that the employee had actual notice of the FMLA notice requirements. This condition would be satisfied by the employer's proper posting of the required notice at the worksite where the employee is employed and the employer's provision of the required notice in either an employee handbook or employee distribution, as required by §825.300.

(b) Foreseeable leave—30 days. When the need for FMLA leave is foreseeable at least 30 days in advance and an employee fails to give timely advance notice with no reasonable excuse, the employer may delay FMLA coverage until 30 days after the date the employee provides notice. The need for leave and the approximate date leave would be taken must have been clearly foreseeable to the employee 30 days in advance of the leave. For example, knowledge that an employee would receive a telephone call about the availability of a child for adoption at some unknown point in the future would not be sufficient to establish the leave was clearly foreseeable 30 days in advance.

(c) Foreseeable leave—less than 30 days. When the need for FMLA leave is foreseeable fewer than 30 days in advance and an employee fails to give notice as soon as practicable under the particular facts and circumstances, the extent to which an employer may delay FMLA coverage for leave depends on the facts of the particular case. For example, if an employee reasonably should have given the employer two weeks notice but instead only provided one week notice, then the employer may delay FMLA-protected leave for one week (thus, if the employer elects to delay FMLA coverage and the employee nonetheless takes leave one week after providing the notice (i.e., a week before the two week notice period has been met) the leave will not be FMLA-protected).

(d) Unforeseeable leave. When the need for FMLA leave is unforeseeable and an employee fails to give notice in accordance with §825.303, the extent to which an employer may delay FMLA coverage for leave depends on the facts of the particular case. For example, if it would have been practicable for an employee to have given the employer notice of the need for leave very soon after the need arises consistent with the employer's policy, but instead the employee provided notice two days after the leave began, then the employer may delay FMLA coverage of the leave by two days.

(e) Waiver of notice. An employer may waive employees' FMLA notice obligations or the employer's own internal rules on leave notice requirements. If an employer does not waive the employee's obligations under its internal leave rules, the employer may take appropriate action under its internal rules and procedures for failure to follow its usual and customary notification rules, absent unusual circumstances, as long as the actions are taken in a manner that does not discriminate against employees taking FMLA leave and the rules are not inconsistent with §825.303(a).

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§825.305   Certification, general rule.

(a) General. An employer may require that an employee's leave to care for the employee's covered family member with a serious health condition, or due to the employee's own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform one or more of the essential functions of the employee's position, be supported by a certification issued by the health care provider of the employee or the employee's family member. An employer may also require that an employee's leave because of a qualifying exigency or to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness be supported by a certification, as described in §§825.309 and 825.310, respectively. An employer must give notice of a requirement for certification each time a certification is required; such notice must be written notice whenever required by §825.300(c). An employer's oral request to an employee to furnish any subsequent certification is sufficient.

(b) Timing. In most cases, the employer should request that an employee furnish certification at the time the employee gives notice of the need for leave or within five business days thereafter, or, in the case of unforeseen leave, within five business days after the leave commences. The employer may request certification at some later date if the employer later has reason to question the appropriateness of the leave or its duration. The employee must provide the requested certification to the employer within 15 calendar days after the employer's request, unless it is not practicable under the particular circumstances to do so despite the employee's diligent, good faith efforts or the employer provides more than 15 calendar days to return the requested certification.

(c) Complete and sufficient certification. The employee must provide a complete and sufficient certification to the employer if required by the employer in accordance with §§825.306, 825.309, and 825.310. The employer shall advise an employee whenever the employer finds a certification incomplete or insufficient, and shall state in writing what additional information is necessary to make the certification complete and sufficient. A certification is considered incomplete if the employer receives a certification, but one or more of the applicable entries have not been completed. A certification is considered insufficient if the employer receives a complete certification, but the information provided is vague, ambiguous, or non-responsive. The employer must provide the employee with seven calendar days (unless not practicable under the particular circumstances despite the employee's diligent good faith efforts) to cure any such deficiency. If the deficiencies specified by the employer are not cured in the resubmitted certification, the employer may deny the taking of FMLA leave, in accordance with §825.313. A certification that is not returned to the employer is not considered incomplete or insufficient, but constitutes a failure to provide certification.

(d) Consequences. At the time the employer requests certification, the employer must also advise an employee of the anticipated consequences of an employee's failure to provide adequate certification. If the employee fails to provide the employer with a complete and sufficient certification, despite the opportunity to cure the certification as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, or fails to provide any certification, the employer may deny the taking of FMLA leave, in accordance with §825.313. It is the employee's responsibility either to furnish a complete and sufficient certification or to furnish the health care provider providing the certification with any necessary authorization from the employee or the employee's family member in order for the health care provider to release a complete and sufficient certification to the employer to support the employee's FMLA request. This provision will apply in any case where an employer requests a certification permitted by these regulations, whether it is the initial certification, a recertification, a second or third opinion, or a fitness for duty certificate, including any clarifications necessary to determine if such certifications are authentic and sufficient. See §§825.306, 825.307, 825.308, and 825.312.

(e) Annual medical certification. Where the employee's need for leave due to the employee's own serious health condition, or the serious health condition of the employee's covered family member, lasts beyond a single leave year (as defined in §825.200), the employer may require the employee to provide a new medical certification in each subsequent leave year. Such new medical certifications are subject to the provisions for authentication and clarification set forth in §825.307, including second and third opinions.

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§825.306   Content of medical certification for leave taken because of an employee's own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member.

(a) Required information. When leave is taken because of an employee's own serious health condition, or the serious health condition of a family member, an employer may require an employee to obtain a medical certification from a health care provider that sets forth the following information:

(1) The name, address, telephone number, and fax number of the health care provider and type of medical practice/specialization;

(2) The approximate date on which the serious health condition commenced, and its probable duration;

(3) A statement or description of appropriate medical facts regarding the patient's health condition for which FMLA leave is requested. The medical facts must be sufficient to support the need for leave. Such medical facts may include information on symptoms, diagnosis, hospitalization, doctor visits, whether medication has been prescribed, any referrals for evaluation or treatment (physical therapy, for example), or any other regimen of continuing treatment;

(4) If the employee is the patient, information sufficient to establish that the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the employee's job as well as the nature of any other work restrictions, and the likely duration of such inability (see §825.123(b) and (c));

(5) If the patient is a covered family member with a serious health condition, information sufficient to establish that the family member is in need of care, as described in §825.124, and an estimate of the frequency and duration of the leave required to care for the family member;

(6) If an employee requests leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis for planned medical treatment of the employee's or a covered family member's serious health condition, information sufficient to establish the medical necessity for such intermittent or reduced schedule leave and an estimate of the dates and duration of such treatments and any periods of recovery;

(7) If an employee requests leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis for the employee's serious health condition, including pregnancy, that may result in unforeseeable episodes of incapacity, information sufficient to establish the medical necessity for such intermittent or reduced schedule leave and an estimate of the frequency and duration of the episodes of incapacity; and

(8) If an employee requests leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis to care for a covered family member with a serious health condition, a statement that such leave is medically necessary to care for the family member, as described in §§825.124 and 825.203(b), which can include assisting in the family member's recovery, and an estimate of the frequency and duration of the required leave.

(b) DOL has developed two optional forms (Form WH-380E and Form WH-380F, as revised) for use in obtaining medical certification, including second and third opinions, from health care providers that meets FMLA's certification requirements. Optional form WH-380E is for use when the employee's need for leave is due to the employee's own serious health condition. Optional form WH-380F is for use when the employee needs leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. These optional forms reflect certification requirements so as to permit the health care provider to furnish appropriate medical information. Form WH-380-E and WH-380-F, as revised, or another form containing the same basic information, may be used by the employer; however, no information may be required beyond that specified in §§825.306, 825.307, and 825.308. In all instances the information on the form must relate only to the serious health condition for which the current need for leave exists. Prototype forms WH-380-E and WH-380-F may be obtained from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division or from the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd.

(c) If an employee is on FMLA leave running concurrently with a workers' compensation absence, and the provisions of the workers' compensation statute permit the employer or the employer's representative to request additional information from the employee's workers' compensation health care provider, the FMLA does not prevent the employer from following the workers' compensation provisions and information received under those provisions may be considered in determining the employee's entitlement to FMLA-protected leave. Similarly, an employer may request additional information in accordance with a paid leave policy or disability plan that requires greater information to qualify for payments or benefits, provided that the employer informs the employee that the additional information only needs to be provided in connection with receipt of such payments or benefits. Any information received pursuant to such policy or plan may be considered in determining the employee's entitlement to FMLA-protected leave. If the employee fails to provide the information required for receipt of such payments or benefits, such failure will not affect the employee's entitlement to take unpaid FMLA leave. See §825.207(a).

(d) If an employee's serious health condition may also be a disability within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, the FMLA does not prevent the employer from following the procedures for requesting medical information under the ADA. Any information received pursuant to these procedures may be considered in determining the employee's entitlement to FMLA-protected leave.

(e) While an employee may choose to comply with the certification requirement by providing the employer with an authorization, release, or waiver allowing the employer to communicate directly with the health care provider of the employee or his or her covered family member, the employee may not be required to provide such an authorization, release, or waiver. In all instances in which certification is requested, it is the employee's responsibility to provide the employer with complete and sufficient certification and failure to do so may result in the denial of FMLA leave. See §825.305(d).

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§825.307   Authentication and clarification of medical certification for leave taken because of an employee's own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member; second and third opinions.

(a) Clarification and authentication. If an employee submits a complete and sufficient certification signed by the health care provider, the employer may not request additional information from the health care provider. However, the employer may contact the health care provider for purposes of clarification and authentication of the medical certification (whether initial certification or recertification) after the employer has given the employee an opportunity to cure any deficiencies as set forth in §825.305(c). To make such contact, the employer must use a health care provider, a human resources professional, a leave administrator, or a management official. Under no circumstances, however, may the employee's direct supervisor contact the employee's health care provider. For purposes of these regulations, authentication means providing the health care provider with a copy of the certification and requesting verification that the information contained on the certification form was completed and/or authorized by the health care provider who signed the document; no additional medical information may be requested. Clarification means contacting the health care provider to understand the handwriting on the medical certification or to understand the meaning of a response. Employers may not ask health care providers for additional information beyond that required by the certification form. The requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule (see 45 CFR parts 160 and 164), which governs the privacy of individually-identifiable health information created or held by HIPAA-covered entities, must be satisfied when individually-identifiable health information of an employee is shared with an employer by a HIPAA-covered health care provider. If an employee chooses not to provide the employer with authorization allowing the employer to clarify the certification with the health care provider, and does not otherwise clarify the certification, the employer may deny the taking of FMLA leave if the certification is unclear. See §825.305(d). It is the employee's responsibility to provide the employer with a complete and sufficient certification and to clarify the certification if necessary.

(b) Second opinion. (1) An employer who has reason to doubt the validity of a medical certification may require the employee to obtain a second opinion at the employer's expense. Pending receipt of the second (or third) medical opinion, the employee is provisionally entitled to the benefits of the Act, including maintenance of group health benefits. If the certifications do not ultimately establish the employee's entitlement to FMLA leave, the leave shall not be designated as FMLA leave and may be treated as paid or unpaid leave under the employer's established leave policies. In addition, the consequences set forth in §825.305(d) will apply if the employee or the employee's family member fails to authorize his or her health care provider to release all relevant medical information pertaining to the serious health condition at issue if requested by the health care provider designated to provide a second opinion in order to render a sufficient and complete second opinion.

(2) The employer is permitted to designate the health care provider to furnish the second opinion, but the selected health care provider may not be employed on a regular basis by the employer. The employer may not regularly contract with or otherwise regularly utilize the services of the health care provider furnishing the second opinion unless the employer is located in an area where access to health care is extremely limited (e.g., a rural area where no more than one or two doctors practice in the relevant specialty in the vicinity).

(c) Third opinion. If the opinions of the employee's and the employer's designated health care providers differ, the employer may require the employee to obtain certification from a third health care provider, again at the employer's expense. This third opinion shall be final and binding. The third health care provider must be designated or approved jointly by the employer and the employee. The employer and the employee must each act in good faith to attempt to reach agreement on whom to select for the third opinion provider. If the employer does not attempt in good faith to reach agreement, the employer will be bound by the first certification. If the employee does not attempt in good faith to reach agreement, the employee will be bound by the second certification. For example, an employee who refuses to agree to see a doctor in the specialty in question may be failing to act in good faith. On the other hand, an employer that refuses to agree to any doctor on a list of specialists in the appropriate field provided by the employee and whom the employee has not previously consulted may be failing to act in good faith. In addition, the consequences set forth in §825.305(d) will apply if the employee or the employee's family member fails to authorize his or her health care provider to release all relevant medical information pertaining to the serious health condition at issue if requested by the health care provider designated to provide a third opinion in order to render a sufficient and complete third opinion.

(d) Copies of opinions. The employer is required to provide the employee with a copy of the second and third medical opinions, where applicable, upon request by the employee. Requested copies are to be provided within five business days unless extenuating circumstances prevent such action.

(e) Travel expenses. If the employer requires the employee to obtain either a second or third opinion the employer must reimburse an employee or family member for any reasonable “out of pocket” travel expenses incurred to obtain the second and third medical opinions. The employer may not require the employee or family member to travel outside normal commuting distance for purposes of obtaining the second or third medical opinions except in very unusual circumstances.

(f) Medical certification abroad. In circumstances in which the employee or a family member is visiting in another country, or a family member resides in another country, and a serious health condition develops, the employer shall accept a medical certification as well as second and third opinions from a health care provider who practices in that country. Where a certification by a foreign health care provider is in a language other than English, the employee must provide the employer with a written translation of the certification upon request.

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§825.308   Recertifications for leave taken because of an employee's own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member.

(a) 30-day rule. An employer may request recertification no more often than every 30 days and only in connection with an absence by the employee, unless paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section apply.

(b) More than 30 days. If the medical certification indicates that the minimum duration of the condition is more than 30 days, an employer must wait until that minimum duration expires before requesting a recertification, unless paragraph (c) of this section applies. For example, if the medical certification states that an employee will be unable to work, whether continuously or on an intermittent basis, for 40 days, the employer must wait 40 days before requesting a recertification. In all cases, an employer may request a recertification of a medical condition every six months in connection with an absence by the employee. Accordingly, even if the medical certification indicates that the employee will need intermittent or reduced schedule leave for a period in excess of six months (e.g., for a lifetime condition), the employer would be permitted to request recertification every six months in connection with an absence.

(c) Less than 30 days. An employer may request recertification in less than 30 days if:

(1) The employee requests an extension of leave;

(2) Circumstances described by the previous certification have changed significantly (e.g., the duration or frequency of the absence, the nature or severity of the illness, complications). For example, if a medical certification stated that an employee would need leave for one to two days when the employee suffered a migraine headache and the employee's absences for his or her last two migraines lasted four days each, then the increased duration of absence might constitute a significant change in circumstances allowing the employer to request a recertification in less than 30 days. Likewise, if an employee had a pattern of using unscheduled FMLA leave for migraines in conjunction with his or her scheduled days off, then the timing of the absences also might constitute a significant change in circumstances sufficient for an employer to request a recertification more frequently than every 30 days; or

(3) The employer receives information that casts doubt upon the employee's stated reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the certification. For example, if an employee is on FMLA leave for four weeks due to the employee's knee surgery, including recuperation, and the employee plays in company softball league games during the employee's third week of FMLA leave, such information might be sufficient to cast doubt upon the continuing validity of the certification allowing the employer to request a recertification in less than 30 days.

(d) Timing. The employee must provide the requested recertification to the employer within the time frame requested by the employer (which must allow at least 15 calendar days after the employer's request), unless it is not practicable under the particular circumstances to do so despite the employee's diligent, good faith efforts.

(e) Content. The employer may ask for the same information when obtaining recertification as that permitted for the original certification as set forth in §825.306. The employee has the same obligations to participate and cooperate (including providing a complete and sufficient certification or adequate authorization to the health care provider) in the recertification process as in the initial certification process. See §825.305(d). As part of the information allowed to be obtained on recertification for leave taken because of a serious health condition, the employer may provide the health care provider with a record of the employee's absence pattern and ask the health care provider if the serious health condition and need for leave is consistent with such a pattern.

(f) Any recertification requested by the employer shall be at the employee's expense unless the employer provides otherwise. No second or third opinion on recertification may be required.

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§825.309   Certification for leave taken because of a qualifying exigency.

(a) Active Duty Orders. The first time an employee requests leave because of a qualifying exigency arising out of the covered active duty or call to covered active duty status (or notification of an impending call or order to covered active duty)of a military member (see §825.126(a)), an employer may require the employee to provide a copy of the military member's active duty orders or other documentation issued by the military which indicates that the military member is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status, and the dates of the military member's covered active duty service. This information need only be provided to the employer once. A copy of new active duty orders or other documentation issued by the military may be required by the employer if the need for leave because of a qualifying exigency arises out of a different covered active duty or call to covered active duty status (or notification of an impending call or order to covered active duty) of the same or a different military member;

(b) Required information. An employer may require that leave for any qualifying exigency specified in §825.126 be supported by a certification from the employee that sets forth the following information:

(1) A statement or description, signed by the employee, of appropriate facts regarding the qualifying exigency for which FMLA leave is requested. The facts must be sufficient to support the need for leave. Such facts should include information on the type of qualifying exigency for which leave is requested and any available written documentation which supports the request for leave; such documentation, for example, may include a copy of a meeting announcement for informational briefings sponsored by the military, a document confirming an appointment with a counselor or school official, or a copy of a bill for services for the handling of legal or financial affairs;

(2) The approximate date on which the qualifying exigency commenced or will commence;

(3) If an employee requests leave because of a qualifying exigency for a single, continuous period of time, the beginning and end dates for such absence;

(4) If an employee requests leave because of a qualifying exigency on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis, an estimate of the frequency and duration of the qualifying exigency;

(5) If the qualifying exigency involves meeting with a third party, appropriate contact information for the individual or entity with whom the employee is meeting (such as the name, title, organization, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address) and a brief description of the purpose of the meeting; and

(6) If the qualifying exigency involves Rest and Recuperation leave, a copy of the military member's Rest and Recuperation orders, or other documentation issued by the military which indicates that the military member has been granted Rest and Recuperation leave, and the dates of the military member's Rest and Recuperation leave.

(c) DOL has developed an optional form (Form WH-384) for employees' use in obtaining a certification that meets FMLA's certification requirements. Form WH-384 may be obtained from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division or from the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd. This optional form reflects certification requirements so as to permit the employee to furnish appropriate information to support his or her request for leave because of a qualifying exigency. Form WH-384, or another form containing the same basic information, may be used by the employer; however, no information may be required beyond that specified in this section.

(d) Verification. If an employee submits a complete and sufficient certification to support his or her request for leave because of a qualifying exigency, the employer may not request additional information from the employee. However, if the qualifying exigency involves meeting with a third party, the employer may contact the individual or entity with whom the employee is meeting for purposes of verifying a meeting or appointment schedule and the nature of the meeting between the employee and the specified individual or entity. The employee's permission is not required in order to verify meetings or appointments with third parties, but no additional information may be requested by the employer. An employer also may contact an appropriate unit of the Department of Defense to request verification that a military member is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty); no additional information may be requested and the employee's permission is not required.

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§825.310   Certification for leave taken to care for a covered servicemember (military caregiver leave).

(a) Required information from health care provider. When leave is taken to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, an employer may require an employee to obtain a certification completed by an authorized health care provider of the covered servicemember. For purposes of leave taken to care for a covered servicemember, any one of the following health care providers may complete such a certification:

(1) A United States Department of Defense (“DOD”) health care provider;

(2) A United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) health care provider;

(3) A DOD TRICARE network authorized private health care provider;

(4) A DOD non-network TRICARE authorized private health care provider; or

(5) Any health care provider as defined in §825.125.

(b) If the authorized health care provider is unable to make certain military-related determinations outlined below, the authorized health care provider may rely on determinations from an authorized DOD representative (such as a DOD Recovery Care Coordinator) or an authorized VA representative. An employer may request that the health care provider provide the following information:

(1) The name, address, and appropriate contact information (telephone number, fax number, and/or email address) of the health care provider, the type of medical practice, the medical specialty, and whether the health care provider is one of the following:

(i) A DOD health care provider;

(ii) A VA health care provider;

(iii) A DOD TRICARE network authorized private health care provider;

(iv) A DOD non-network TRICARE authorized private health care provider; or

(v) A health care provider as defined in §825.125.

(2) Whether the covered servicemember's injury or illness was incurred in the line of duty on active duty or, if not, whether the covered servicemember's injury or illness existed before the beginning of the servicemember's active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty;

(3) The approximate date on which the serious injury or illness commenced, or was aggravated, and its probable duration;

(4) A statement or description of appropriate medical facts regarding the covered servicemember's health condition for which FMLA leave is requested. The medical facts must be sufficient to support the need for leave.

(i) In the case of a current member of the Armed Forces, such medical facts must include information on whether the injury or illness may render the covered servicemember medically unfit to perform the duties of the servicemember's office, grade, rank, or rating and whether the member is receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy.

(ii) In the case of a covered veteran, such medical facts must include:

(A) Information on whether the veteran is receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for an injury or illness that is the continuation of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated when the covered veteran was a member of the Armed Forces and rendered the servicemember medically unfit to perform the duties of the servicemember's office, grade, rank, or rating; or

(B) Information on whether the veteran is receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for an injury or illness that is a physical or mental condition for which the covered veteran has received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Service-Related Disability Rating (VASRD) of 50 percent or greater, and that such VASRD rating is based, in whole or in part, on the condition precipitating the need for military caregiver leave; or

(C) Information on whether the veteran is receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for an injury or illness that is a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs the covered veteran's ability to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation by reason of a disability or disabilities related to military service, or would do so absent treatment; or

(D) Documentation of enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

(5) Information sufficient to establish that the covered servicemember is in need of care, as described in §825.124, and whether the covered servicemember will need care for a single continuous period of time, including any time for treatment and recovery, and an estimate as to the beginning and ending dates for this period of time;

(6) If an employee requests leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis for planned medical treatment appointments for the covered servicemember, whether there is a medical necessity for the covered servicemember to have such periodic care and an estimate of the treatment schedule of such appointments;

(7) If an employee requests leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis to care for a covered servicemember other than for planned medical treatment (e.g., episodic flare-ups of a medical condition), whether there is a medical necessity for the covered servicemember to have such periodic care, which can include assisting in the covered servicemember's recovery, and an estimate of the frequency and duration of the periodic care.

(c) Required information from employee and/or covered servicemember. In addition to the information that may be requested under §825.310(b), an employer may also request that such certification set forth the following information provided by an employee and/or covered servicemember:

(1) The name and address of the employer of the employee requesting leave to care for a covered servicemember, the name of the employee requesting such leave, and the name of the covered servicemember for whom the employee is requesting leave to care;

(2) The relationship of the employee to the covered servicemember for whom the employee is requesting leave to care;

(3) Whether the covered servicemember is a current member of the Armed Forces, the National Guard or Reserves, and the covered servicemember's military branch, rank, and current unit assignment;

(4) Whether the covered servicemember is assigned to a military medical facility as an outpatient or to a unit established for the purpose of providing command and control of members of the Armed Forces receiving medical care as outpatients (such as a medical hold or warrior transition unit), and the name of the medical treatment facility or unit;

(5) Whether the covered servicemember is on the temporary disability retired list;

(6) Whether the covered servicemember is a veteran, the date of separation from military service, and whether the separation was other than dishonorable. The employer may require the employee to provide documentation issued by the military which indicates that the covered servicemember is a veteran, the date of separation, and that the separation is other than dishonorable. Where an employer requires such documentation, an employee may provide a copy of the veteran's Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty issued by the U.S. Department of Defense (DD Form 214) or other proof of veteran status. See §825.127(c)(2).

(7) A description of the care to be provided to the covered servicemember and an estimate of the leave needed to provide the care.

(d) DOL has developed optional forms (WH-385, WH-385-V) for employees' use in obtaining certification that meets FMLA's certification requirements, which may be obtained from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division or on the Internet at www.dol.gov/whd. These optional forms reflect certification requirements so as to permit the employee to furnish appropriate information to support his or her request for leave to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness. WH-385, WH-385-V, or another form containing the same basic information, may be used by the employer; however, no information may be required beyond that specified in this section. In all instances the information on the certification must relate only to the serious injury or illness for which the current need for leave exists. An employer may seek authentication and/or clarification of the certification under §825.307. Second and third opinions under §825.307 are not permitted for leave to care for a covered servicemember when the certification has been completed by one of the types of health care providers identified in §825.310(a)(1)-(4). However, second and third opinions under §825.307 are permitted when the certification has been completed by a health care provider as defined in §825.125 that is not one of the types identified in §825.310(a)(1)-(4). Additionally, recertifications under §825.308 are not permitted for leave to care for a covered servicemember. An employer may require an employee to provide confirmation of covered family relationship to the seriously injured or ill servicemember pursuant to §825.122(k) of the FMLA.

(e) An employer requiring an employee to submit a certification for leave to care for a covered servicemember must accept as sufficient certification, in lieu of the Department's optional certification forms (WH-385) or an employer's own certification form, invitational travel orders (ITOs) or invitational travel authorizations (ITAs) issued to any family member to join an injured or ill servicemember at his or her bedside. An ITO or ITA is sufficient certification for the duration of time specified in the ITO or ITA. During that time period, an eligible employee may take leave to care for the covered servicemember in a continuous block of time or on an intermittent basis. An eligible employee who provides an ITO or ITA to support his or her request for leave may not be required to provide any additional or separate certification that leave taken on an intermittent basis during the period of time specified in the ITO or ITA is medically necessary. An ITO or ITA is sufficient certification for an employee entitled to take FMLA leave to care for a covered servicemember regardless of whether the employee is named in the order or authorization.

(1) If an employee will need leave to care for a covered servicemember beyond the expiration date specified in an ITO or ITA, an employer may request that the employee have one of the authorized health care providers listed under §825.310(a) complete the DOL optional certification form (WH-385) or an employer's own form, as requisite certification for the remainder of the employee's necessary leave period.

(2) An employer may seek authentication and clarification of the ITO or ITA under §825.307. An employer may not utilize the second or third opinion process outlined in §825.307 or the recertification process under §825.308 during the period of time in which leave is supported by an ITO or ITA.

(3) An employer may require an employee to provide confirmation of covered family relationship to the seriously injured or ill servicemember pursuant to §825.122(k) when an employee supports his or her request for FMLA leave with a copy of an ITO or ITA.

(f) An employer requiring an employee to submit a certification for leave to care for a covered servicemember must accept as sufficient certification of the servicemember's serious injury or illness documentation indicating the servicemember's enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. Such documentation is sufficient certification of the servicemember's serious injury or illness to support the employee's request for military caregiver leave regardless of whether the employee is the named caregiver in the enrollment documentation.

(1) An employer may seek authentication and clarification of the documentation indicating the servicemember's enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers under §825.307. An employer may not utilize the second or third opinion process outlined in §825.307 or the recertification process under §825.308 when the servicemember's serious injury or illness is shown by documentation of enrollment in this program.

(2) An employer may require an employee to provide confirmation of covered family relationship to the seriously injured or ill servicemember pursuant to §825.122(k) when an employee supports his or her request for FMLA leave with a copy of such enrollment documentation. An employer may also require an employee to provide documentation, such as a veteran's Form DD-214, showing that the discharge was other than dishonorable and the date of the veteran's discharge.

(g) Where medical certification is requested by an employer, an employee may not be held liable for administrative delays in the issuance of military documents, despite the employee's diligent, good-faith efforts to obtain such documents. See §825.305(b). In all instances in which certification is requested, it is the employee's responsibility to provide the employer with complete and sufficient certification and failure to do so may result in the denial of FMLA leave. See §825.305(d).

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§825.311   Intent to return to work.

(a) An employer may require an employee on FMLA leave to report periodically on the employee's status and intent to return to work. The employer's policy regarding such reports may not be discriminatory and must take into account all of the relevant facts and circumstances related to the individual employee's leave situation.

(b) If an employee gives unequivocal notice of intent not to return to work, the employer's obligations under FMLA to maintain health benefits (subject to COBRA requirements) and to restore the employee cease. However, these obligations continue if an employee indicates he or she may be unable to return to work but expresses a continuing desire to do so.

(c) It may be necessary for an employee to take more leave than originally anticipated. Conversely, an employee may discover after beginning leave that the circumstances have changed and the amount of leave originally anticipated is no longer necessary. An employee may not be required to take more FMLA leave than necessary to resolve the circumstance that precipitated the need for leave. In both of these situations, the employer may require that the employee provide the employer reasonable notice (i.e., within two business days) of the changed circumstances where foreseeable. The employer may also obtain information on such changed circumstances through requested status reports.

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§825.312   Fitness-for-duty certification.

(a) As a condition of restoring an employee whose FMLA leave was occasioned by the employee's own serious health condition that made the employee unable to perform the employee's job, an employer may have a uniformly-applied policy or practice that requires all similarly-situated employees (i.e., same occupation, same serious health condition) who take leave for such conditions to obtain and present certification from the employee's health care provider that the employee is able to resume work. The employee has the same obligations to participate and cooperate (including providing a complete and sufficient certification or providing sufficient authorization to the health care provider to provide the information directly to the employer) in the fitness-for-duty certification process as in the initial certification process. See §825.305(d).

(b) An employer may seek a fitness-for-duty certification only with regard to the particular health condition that caused the employee's need for FMLA leave. The certification from the employee's health care provider must certify that the employee is able to resume work. Additionally, an employer may require that the certification specifically address the employee's ability to perform the essential functions of the employee's job. In order to require such a certification, an employer must provide an employee with a list of the essential functions of the employee's job no later than with the designation notice required by §825.300(d), and must indicate in the designation notice that the certification must address the employee's ability to perform those essential functions. If the employer satisfies these requirements, the employee's health care provider must certify that the employee can perform the identified essential functions of his or her job. Following the procedures set forth in §825.307(a), the employer may contact the employee's health care provider for purposes of clarifying and authenticating the fitness-for-duty certification. Clarification may be requested only for the serious health condition for which FMLA leave was taken. The employer may not delay the employee's return to work while contact with the health care provider is being made. No second or third opinions on a fitness-for-duty certification may be required.

(c) The cost of the certification shall be borne by the employee, and the employee is not entitled to be paid for the time or travel costs spent in acquiring the certification.

(d) The designation notice required in §825.300(d) shall advise the employee if the employer will require a fitness-for-duty certification to return to work and whether that fitness-for-duty certification must address the employee's ability to perform the essential functions of the employee's job.

(e) An employer may delay restoration to employment until an employee submits a required fitness-for-duty certification unless the employer has failed to provide the notice required in paragraph (d) of this section. If an employer provides the notice required, an employee who does not provide a fitness-for-duty certification or request additional FMLA leave is no longer entitled to reinstatement under the FMLA. See §825.313(d).

(f) An employer is not entitled to a certification of fitness to return to duty for each absence taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule. However, an employer is entitled to a certification of fitness to return to duty for such absences up to once every 30 days if reasonable safety concerns exist regarding the employee's ability to perform his or her duties, based on the serious health condition for which the employee took such leave. If an employer chooses to require a fitness-for-duty certification under such circumstances, the employer shall inform the employee at the same time it issues the designation notice that for each subsequent instance of intermittent or reduced schedule leave, the employee will be required to submit a fitness-for-duty certification unless one has already been submitted within the past 30 days. Alternatively, an employer can set a different interval for requiring a fitness-for-duty certification as long as it does not exceed once every 30 days and as long as the employer advises the employee of the requirement in advance of the employee taking the intermittent or reduced schedule leave. The employer may not terminate the employment of the employee while awaiting such a certification of fitness to return to duty for an intermittent or reduced schedule leave absence. Reasonable safety concerns means a reasonable belief of significant risk of harm to the individual employee or others. In determining whether reasonable safety concerns exist, an employer should consider the nature and severity of the potential harm and the likelihood that potential harm will occur.

(g) If State or local law or the terms of a collective bargaining agreement govern an employee's return to work, those provisions shall be applied.

(h) Requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, apply. After an employee returns from FMLA leave, the ADA requires any medical examination at an employer's expense by the employer's health care provider be job-related and consistent with business necessity. For example, an attorney could not be required to submit to a medical examination or inquiry just because her leg had been amputated. The essential functions of an attorney's job do not require use of both legs; therefore such an inquiry would not be job related. An employer may require a warehouse laborer, whose back impairment affects the ability to lift, to be examined by an orthopedist, but may not require this employee to submit to an HIV test where the test is not related to either the essential functions of his or her job or to his/her impairment. If an employee's serious health condition may also be a disability within the meaning of the ADA, the FMLA does not prevent the employer from following the procedures for requesting medical information under the ADA.

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§825.313   Failure to provide certification.

(a) Foreseeable leave. In the case of foreseeable leave, if an employee fails to provide certification in a timely manner as required by §825.305, then an employer may deny FMLA coverage until the required certification is provided. For example, if an employee has 15 days to provide a certification and does not provide the certification for 45 days without sufficient reason for the delay, the employer can deny FMLA protections for the 30-day period following the expiration of the 15-day time period, if the employee takes leave during such period.

(b) Unforeseeable leave. In the case of unforeseeable leave, an employer may deny FMLA coverage for the requested leave if the employee fails to provide a certification within 15 calendar days from receipt of the request for certification unless not practicable due to extenuating circumstances. For example, in the case of a medical emergency, it may not be practicable for an employee to provide the required certification within 15 calendar days. Absent such extenuating circumstances, if the employee fails to timely return the certification, the employer can deny FMLA protections for the leave following the expiration of the 15-day time period until a sufficient certification is provided. If the employee never produces the certification, the leave is not FMLA leave.

(c) Recertification. An employee must provide recertification within the time requested by the employer (which must allow at least 15 calendar days after the request) or as soon as practicable under the particular facts and circumstances. If an employee fails to provide a recertification within a reasonable time under the particular facts and circumstances, then the employer may deny continuation of the FMLA leave protections until the employee produces a sufficient recertification. If the employee never produces the recertification, the leave is not FMLA leave. Recertification does not apply to leave taken for a qualifying exigency or to care for a covered servicemember.

(d) Fitness-for-duty certification. When requested by the employer pursuant to a uniformly applied policy for similarly-situated employees, the employee must provide medical certification, at the time the employee seeks reinstatement at the end of FMLA leave taken for the employee's serious health condition, that the employee is fit for duty and able to return to work (see §825.312(a)) if the employer has provided the required notice (see §825.300(e)); the employer may delay restoration until the certification is provided. Unless the employee provides either a fitness-for-duty certification or a new medical certification for a serious health condition at the time FMLA leave is concluded, the employee may be terminated. See also §825.213(a)(3).

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