What is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was established to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year with health benefits. In most cases, FMLA is utilized for medical procedures or long-term care for you or your family. FMLA is considered confidential and with the proper documentation and paperwork, FMLA can ease the stress of an already difficult situation.
FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities without the fear of losing their job. FMLA applies to all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.
Is FMLA Medical Leave Confidential?
Yes, FMLA is confidential to all supervisors, management staff, and other employees.
Be mindful that the only person who needs to know the reason for your FMLA request is HR Directors, your doctors, and yourself.
When you request FMLA leave for a medical treatment or procedure, your rights to keep your medical records confidential is protected by HIPAA laws.
The FMLA Process
The first step to the FMLA process is to give your employer a fair notice that you are seeking FMLA medical leave. Inform them of the expected time and duration of the FMLA leave. At this step, it is not required to disclose the reason for the leave request. The employer may request certification of the employee’s health condition within 15 days of the initial request for leave.
Completing that form is key for confidentiality. The FMLA certification must be provided by a qualified health care provider or doctor. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a FMLA certification form that can help speed up the process. This form needs to be crafted carefully. Many medical physicians are properly instructed on how to fill these forms out by divulging as little as possible about your medical situation or the illness being treatment.
As part of the certification process, the employer will almost certainly obtain sensitive medical information regarding the employee but when the form is properly filled out, that information must be kept to a minimum when it is properly filled out by a doctor. The doctor will know exactly what is protected by HIPAA and what is required to divulge for FMLA.
When the employer requests to use FMLA, the employees right to privacy places strict limitations on how the information is treated, documented, and filed. Federal regulations require that information related to an FMLA leave request must be treated as “confidential medical records” and kept in “separate files/records from the usual personnel files.”