Do I Have to Tell my Employer Why I Need FMLA and Medical Leave?

In short, yes, you do need to tell your employer why you need FMLA leave.  This is so that your employer knows it is covered by the FMLA.

However, you do not have to specifically ask for FMLA leave by name. In other words, you need to provide enough information to your job so that they know your leave is due to a reason that qualifies you for the FMLA.

To know more, it is important to learn a little more about the background of the FMLA.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides important protections to employees in the United States who need time off for qualifying reasons.

A common question is whether employees are required to disclose specific details about the nature of their medical condition or the reason for their FMLA leave to contact their employer.

In this post, we will get further into the legal aspects of FMLA and explore the employer’s right to know about the specifics of an employee’s medical condition.

What is the FMLA Exactly?

The FMLA is a federal law enacted to protect eligible employees by granting them up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain qualifying reasons. These reasons include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or the employee dealing with a serious health condition of their own.

The primary purpose of the FMLA is to enable employees to balance their work responsibilities with their personal and family needs, while ensuring job protection during their leave.

What about Confidentiality and Privacy?

When it comes to medical conditions and personal health information, privacy is a big concern. The FMLA recognizes this and safeguards the privacy of an employee’s medical condition. It limits the information employers can request and maintain regarding an employee’s FMLA leave.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) requires employers to request only the information necessary to establish FMLA eligibility. This typically includes the dates and duration of the requested leave and a general description of the reason for the employee’s leave take. Employees are not required to disclose specific medical details or the underlying cause of their condition, maintaining their right to privacy.

Employer’s Right to Request Medical Certification

While employers cannot get into the specifics of an employee’s medical condition, they do have the right to require employees request medical certification. The purpose of this certification is to verify the need for FMLA leave based on a serious health condition of the employee or their family member.

The medical certification process involves telling employees and a healthcare provider completing a form detailing the relevant medical information. This information may include the need for ongoing treatment, the expected duration of the condition, and whether the employee is unable to perform their job functions due to the condition. However, the medical certification does not require the employer must have a detailed diagnosis or specific medical records.

Protected Health Information (PHI) and HIPAA

Employers are legally obligated to maintain the confidentiality of any medical information they receive from employees. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governs the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI). While HIPAA primarily applies to healthcare providers, health benefits plans, and other covered entities, it also extends some protections to employers.

Employers must ensure that any medical information they receive from employees as part of the FMLA process is kept confidential and stored securely. Only those individuals with a legitimate need to know an employee’s eligibility should have access to this information, such as supervisors involved in approving leave requests or those responsible for providing necessary accommodations.

Conclusion on Job Protected Leave

In summary, employees seeking FMLA leave are generally not required to disclose the specific details of their medical condition to their employer. While employers have the right to request medical certification to verify the need for an employee’s request for leave, this process does not necessitate sharing sensitive medical information.

The FMLA and HIPAA provide safeguards to protect the privacy and confidentiality of employees’ medical conditions. It is crucial for employers to respect these legal requirements and handle medical information with the utmost care and confidentiality.

If you have concerns about your rights or need assistance navigating the FMLA process, consult with an experienced employment law attorney to ensure your rights are protected.