The Third Circuit Instructs Employers To Allow Employees Submitting Insufficient FMLA Medical Certifications Opportunities To Cure Their Paperwork

June 25, 2015 Benefits Link

On Monday, June 22, 2015, the Third Circuit issued a clear message to employers: when it comes to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), strict adherence to the regulations is necessary and gives employees the benefit of doubt. More specifically, the Third Circuit issued a precedential opinion holding that an employer violates the FMLA by failing to provide an opportunity to an employee to cure an insufficient medical certification in advance of terminating her. Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, __ F.3d __, 2015 WL 3825049 (3d Cir. 2015).

Plaintiff Deborah Hansler requested leave from her employer under the FMLA and submitted a medical certification providing insufficient information to determine whether she was eligible for FMLA leave. Her medical certification requested FMLA leave for two days a week for approximately one month. While her medical certification referred to the length of her requested leave, it did not state the nature or duration of her medical condition. Hansler was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure the month after she submitted certification and was terminated. The District Court ruled in favor of the employer on the basis that the plaintiff’s request for leave was “invalid.” The Third Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, reversed and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

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