FMLA abuse during the winter holidays: 4 symptoms of the blues.

Position:Nuts & Bolts

The winter holidays are one of the two peak seasons for employee leave requests, along with summer. How many of your employees' requests will be suspicious usage of FMLA leave--and what can you do about it?

In the 25 years since the FMLA was created, employees have learned well how to exploit the generous protections offered by the law. Your best weapon: Be alert to the main symptoms of FMLA fraud:

  1. 'Friday-Monday Leave Act'

    Do your employees on intermittent FMLA leave seem to schedule absences every Monday or Friday? Do they claim their ailments exempt them from weekend or overnight shifts?

    If you suspect employees are using the FMLA to extend their weekends, review the employee's medical certifications to determine whether the duration or frequency of the leave matches the information provided by the provider.

    If it doesn't, you can request the employee submit a recertification form. Or you can talk to the employee's doctor. Show him or her a record of the employee's absence pattern and ask if the health condition is consistent with this pattern.

  2. Certification questions

    Employers often struggle with what they can ask employees who request FMLA leave for their own medical conditions. You can (and should) require employees to submit a medical certification that supports the request.

    If you doubt the authenticity of the certification, contact the doctor to make sure he or she actually signed it or get clarification on the medical certification.

    Plus, you can always require an employee to obtain a second opinion (at your expense) and a third opinion if the first two opinions differ. (For tips on handling medical certs, go to

  3. Intermittent flare-ups

    Some employees who've been approved for intermittent FMLA leave to care for chronic issues mistakenly believe they have a free pass to take unscheduled days off without approval. This is false when the need for leave is due to planned medical treatments. The frequency and duration of treatment should be on the medical...

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