Trenton Metro Area Local
American Postal Workers Union
President Bill Lewis
Recommendations for Family Medical Leave Documentation:
Sandy Schleher, Clerk Craft Director
Family Leave Coordinator
Metro Area Local
Family Medical Leave is not a leave category
as defined in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual and the Collective
Bargaining Agreement. (The) Family
Medical Leave (Act) is the law that provides you
protection from discipline for serious health conditions for you and your
“family”. There are still only
three (3) leave categories recognized by the parties that fall under the
umbrella of protection. Annual
Leave, Sick Leave, Leave Without Pay
To be eligible for the protections the law provides, the
first thing you need to establish is that you have worked at least 1250 work
hours in the proceeding year for which you are requesting protection.
This information is tracked by the Postal Service every pay period, and
failure to have the required work hours is an automatic forfeiture of the
protections of the law.
We highly recommend that you utilize the APWU Forms to
certify your serious health condition instead of the Department of
Labor Forms provided to you by the Postal Service. When your physician properly fills out the APWU Forms, they
provide the FMLA Coordinator with all the necessary and pertinent information
needed to approve your request for protection.
In other words, they are “user friendly”, as opposed to the DOL
One of the most important elements that you must adhere to
in applying for FMLA protection is the timely submission of your
forms to Management in accordance with the law. If you fail to meet the deadlines that you have been notified
to adhere to, you will automatically forfeit your entitlement to the protections
from discipline. If for some reason
you are unable to meet the time lines imposed, you MUST notify the
appropriate management official and request an extension.
The more rights we gain, (FMLA) the more responsibilities we have, and
meeting timely compliance is one of the most important.
The serious nature of your illness will mean nothing if you blow the time
limits without proof that you made a diligent effort to get an extension.
Another major problem employee’s have been
experiencing is when physicians fail to fully answer all the questions on the
form relative to you or your family member’s medical condition, especially as
it relates to the frequency and duration for intermittent leave.
We suggest you take a pro-active approach with your
physician, and do not be afraid to explain to your doctor what your employer
requires. Physicians are not
generally versed in the law, and rely on their administrative staff to process
most medical forms. Before
submitting your forms to the FMLA Coordinator, you should thoroughly check and
make sure every portion of the form is completed, leaving no question
unanswered. If a particular
question does not apply in your case, then the doctor must notate that.
Leaving any lines blank, or any question not sufficiently answered will
be grounds for the FMLA Coordinator to question the propriety of your
In those instances where your doctor has not adequately
answered questions, we have found that the FMLA Coordinator has been sending
employees a medical authorization release form to fill out, and we strongly
recommend that you DO NOT sign that form.
The form is too open-ended and vague, and is not a requirement for FMLA
protection. However, you still have
an obligation to provide the FMLA Coordinator with the additional information
they are seeking as it relates to your medical condition.
If the FMLA Coordinator has asked you a non-medical question, you still
must respond and answer any questions within the time frame indicated.
Your supervisor has access to the FMLA Coordinator’s e-mail address for
purposes of communication, so don’t hesitate to involve your supervisor, even
though they “feign” ignorance
and a lack of authority.
Also keep in mind that when the FMLA Coordinator or Medical
Unit Physician has reason to believe your medical condition does not fit the
frequency and duration of your intermittent leave request, the Postal Service
has a right to schedule you for a second medical opinion at their expense.
If you fail to attend, you forfeit your rights to the protections of the
law. However, if you go and the
second medical opinion differs from your treating physician, Management may
order a final and binding third medical opinion.
At the end of this article you will find a few examples of
FMLA form(s) and how they should be completed to avoid the Postal Service making
you jump thru additional hoops, and possibly avoid 2nd and 3rd
Please note that the DOL has recently ruled that
terms such as “life-long” or “indefinite” to certify the duration of an
illness is not acceptable. Using
those terms would be equivalent to not answering the question, and can
potentially have your medical documentation rejected.
This is another example where you must take a pro-active approach and
instruct your physician that your employer can only certify the duration of your
illness for one year (at a time).
Also note that the new leave year does not automatically
provide the Postal Service with grounds to require re-certification.
For example, if your physician filled out the FMLA Form in October, and
certified that the duration of your condition is for one (1) year, then you will
not have to re-certify your documentation until October of the following year.
However, the USPS will re-calculate the 1250
work hour requirement at the start of the calendar year, along with the new
count period towards the 480 hours of FMLA you are entitled to.
Please contact your Union if your medical documentation is up to date and
you are being asked to re-certify just because it is the new calendar year.
Also be aware that you cannot certify a serious health
condition, or re-certify a serious health condition in advance of taking leave
for that condition. The American
Postal Workers Union is challenging that rule at the National Level, but for now
you must wait until you require time off for your serious health condition to
submit your medical documentation for certification.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Questions and Answers [pdf]
How to Apply Your Rights Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) [pdf]
FMLA # 1
Employee Certification of Own Serious Illness
FMLA # 2
Certification by Employee's Health Care Provider for Employee's Serious Illness
FMLA # 3
Health Care Provider Certification of Employee's Family Member Illness
FMLA # 4
Notice of Need for Intermittent Leave or for a Reduced Work Schedule
FMLA # 5
Desired or Needed Absence for Birth or placement of Son or Daughter
FMLA # 6
USPS Verification of Veteran's Treatment
FMLA # 7
Management Request for Clarification of Medical Certification