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Why the Wording of your Doctor’s Note is Important

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Jul 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

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Employees who go out on medical leave, including FMLA leave and pregnancy related leave, are often required to provide medical documentation to support their leave.  Under the FMLA this documentation takes the form of a medical certification, which requires the treating physician to certify that the person seeking the leave is actually undergoing treatment for a serious health condition.

In addition to certifying that the patient is treating, the physician is generally obligated to estimate – to the extent possible – the amount of time that the patient will need off, and often what if any restrictions the patient may require.

Doctor's offices, unfortunately, do not always provide enough information on the form, which can lead to a significant problem for employees seeking an approval of FMLA leave or an accommodation from their employer.

As an employee it is important to be responsive to employer requests for further documentation.  If the doctor's form is vague the employer under some circumstances can request further information.  Where that information is withheld by the employee, the employer often denies the leave.

Sometimes doctors provide information that they thought was helpful to the employee but was in fact harmful.

As a recent article in the New York Times describes, employers have been known to elicit statements from doctors that a patient is able to work if given some form of light duty.  While this may be true and even helpful in some cases, often it is actually impossible for an employee to realistically work given her medical restrictions.

Take, for example, a pregnant woman who is unable to perform her job but whose doctor, upon prompting from her employer, has agreed that she could work with a twenty pound weight restriction.  Unwilling or unable to provide an accommodation, the employer then places the employee on unpaid leave.

If you have requested a medical or pregnancy related leave that has been denied give us a call.  518-308-8339.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on exclusively representing individuals in a small number of employment and serious injury/medical malpractice matters. Scott's favorite part of practicing law is getting in front of a jury and standing up for an individual against a large company or institution.

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