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As an employment discrimination lawyer, I see this scenario all the time.  You need leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  Your employer gives you a form to have your doctor fill out certifying your need for leave under the FMLA.  Can you then leave it to your doctor to fax or e-mail the completed form to the employer?  You do so at your own peril.  And, you risk your job in the process.

Under the FMLA, an employer can request that you have your doctor complete a form certifying your need for leave under the FMLA.  The employer must demand this certification in writing, and must provide you with at least 15 calendar days with which to get the form completed by your doctor, and into the hands of the employer.  If you violate this deadline, the employer can deny the FMLA leave, the absences will not be protected by the FMLA, and you can be terminated for those absences.  So, complying with the deadline is a big deal — that is, if you want to keep your job.

Oftentimes, employees leave the form with the doctor to complete, and leave it to the doctor or the doctor’s office staff to fax the completed form to the employer before the deadline.  This is dangerous.  Frequently, the doctor is unable to complete the form before the deadline.  Or, the doctor’s office staff can accidentally fail to fax the completed form to the employer before the deadline.  When this happens, the employer can (and often will) deny the FMLA leave request.  The absences will then count against you, and you can lose your job for violating the employer’s attendance policy.

Instead of putting your job in the hands of your doctor, or your doctor’s office staff, take responsibility for protecting your job and make sure that the completed form is returned to the employer before the deadline.  Keep in close contact with your doctor’s office to make sure that the form is completed in a timely manner.  You should personally submit the completed form to the employer and get written confirmation that the employer has received it.  You can obtain such confirmation by faxing the form yourself (and keeping the fax receipt confirmation sheet), or by delivering the completed form to the employer and having the employer sign and date a piece of paper confirming the date the completed form was received.  If you are physically unable to deliver the completed form to the employer and obtain a signed receipt, have a family member do it for you.  Do not merely count on your doctor, or your doctor’s staff, to submit the completed form to the employer before the deadline.  It could cause you to lose your job.

We hope you find this update to be helpful.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.