Employees can request unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act without fear of losing their jobs or health benefits if they can’t work for medical reasons or must stay home to care for an ailing family member. At the same time, employers can request medical certification from a health care provider before granting FMLA leave. Employers must allow a worker at least 15 calendar days to submit medical certification or recertification of an existing leave, counting from the date she receives the blank form.
If an employee fails to submit medical documentation in a timely manner, the employer can deny the leave request. Absence from work can then be considered unexcused and grounds for punitive actions, including dismissal. However, FMLA regulations state that the 15-day rule is waived when the employee makes a good faith effort to provide the documentation but is unable do so. To deal with this possibility, the FMLA Insights website recommends that after the 15-day period has elapsed, employers should send a notification letter requesting the documentation within seven days. Under FMLA regulations, employers can consider absences after the 15-day period has elapsed and until the form is received to be unexcused unless the employee has made a good faith effort to obtain and return the medical certification. If an employee never provides medical documentation, the original 15-day period may also be considered an unexcused absence.