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If an employee’s test results are normal, is the time off for the test FMLA?

Unless it’s a routine exam, probably

Posted July 16, 2021 

I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on any form of media. I don’t know if there are any medical tests or exams that require employees to miss multiple days of work. Let’s say there are for the purposes of the question in the title of this article.

Let’s also say that Joe Employee was off multiple days for a medical test to see if he had a serious health condition. This was not your run-of-the-mill routine exam. You, the diligent FMLA-complying employer, provided Joe with an eligibility/rights & responsibilities notice and also gave him a certification form.

A few days later, Joe’s doctor called you and indicated that Joe doesn’t qualify for FMLA because the test results came back normal.

Now what?

First of all, you — the employer — are responsible for figuring out whether Joe qualifies for FMLA leave. True, you would likely base that determination on information received from the doctor. But the doctor isn’t the one to determine if the absence qualifies for FMLA protections.

That begs the next question: Does having normal test results indicate that Joe’s absence would not be protected by the FMLA?

Probably not. The FMLA regulations indicate that employees may take FMLA for a condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment.

“The term ‘treatment’ includes (but is not limited to) examinations to determine if a serious health condition exists and evaluations of the condition.” That’s from 825.113(c) for all your FMLA nerds out there.

Treatment does not, however, include routine exams.

A regular colonoscopy, for example, might involve a day of leave, but this is likely still considered a routine exam for many people and would not be to determine a serious condition. If Joe Employee needed additional exams because of something found in the initial colonoscopy, however, the FMLA protections would be called on. The additional exams would not be routine.

So, even if the doctor calls with such information, feel free to tell the employee that you still need a certification; that it’s your responsibility to determine if the reason for leave qualifies for FMLA protections based on the medical information in the certification.

Of course, you are not mandated to ever request a certification, but in situations involving an employee’s or a family member’s medical condition, it serves as documented evidence supporting your determination whether the absence is to be designated as FMLA leave or not.

This article was written by Darlene Clabault of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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