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Can my employer deny my FMLA request because I messed up the paperwork?

The FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) does require a fair amount of paperwork- from you and your medical provider. This often complicates the situation for employees, particularly if they aren’t feeling well, and can lead to problems exercising their rights under this important law. Keep in mind that your employer has a right to certain information relating to the reasons for your leave, even if under other circumstances it might be private medical information.

However, if for some reason you don’t get the paperwork right the first time, you do have a second chance.  Earlier this week an appeals court in Philadelphia held that it was a violation of the FMLA for an employer to simply deny an employee’s request without giving her seven days to correct a problem with the paperwork.  In that case, Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, the employee was fired after the employer denied her request for FMLA leave based on “insufficient” information in her paperwork- because the FMLA request had been denied, her medical absences were considered unexcused.

So, while there is a lot of complicated paperwork to fill out in order to take advantage of the FMLA, you don’t have to get everything 100% right the first time in order to take advantage of the law’s protections.