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What Happens When You’re Caught Between Your Doctor and Your Employer?

March 3, 2017 Family and Medical Leave Act Claims

Woman fired over unsatisfactory FMLA paperwork

Can you be fired because your employer didn’t like the way your doctor filled out your medical leave forms?

That’s what one woman said happened to her when she applied for intermittent time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Because the woman’s doctor hadn’t yet formally diagnosed her, the company deemed her forms insufficient.

She alleges that she was fired due to excessive absenteeism after calling out sick too many times.

Thankfully, this woman took her case to court and ended up scoring a major victory for all Pennsylvania workers. In a precedential ruling, a federal court found that employers must give employees the chance to correct medical paperwork before terminating them.

Let’s discuss what you need to know about your rights under the FMLA.

Doctor didn’t know what was wrong

The woman in this case, Deborah Hansler, was eventually diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. However, by the time she could put a name to her symptoms, she’d already been fired.

Hansler claims she was terminated because her doctor didn’t want to rush a diagnosis.

The problem that Hansler ran into is not uncommon. Doctors are rightly focused on medical issues. When filling out paperwork, they may not fully realize how their notations (or lack thereof) may affect your job status.

Rather than ask for clarification, Hansler says that her employer took a hard stance and terminated her.

However, the court admonished the company for not seeking further clarification.  In its opinion, it noted that someone with an emerging medical condition may sometimes require leave before a proper diagnosis is made. It found that the company violated the FMLA by not giving Hansler a chance to correct her paperwork.

(The case discussed here is Hansler v. Lehigh Valley Hospital Network.)

What it Means to You

It’s important to remember that not all conditions are covered by FMLA. In general, the FMLA covers serious medical conditions that involve inpatient care in a hospital or continuing treatment by a health care provider.

Continuing treatment may include:

  • periodic medical visits (at least twice a year) for treatment of serious health condition by a health care provider
  • treatments that continue over an extended period of time
  • diagnoses that may cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.)

If there are errors or deficiencies in your FMLA paperwork, your employer is obligated to notify you of them.

In general, you then have seven calendar days to make the corrections. However, if you’re seriously ill, you may be unable to comply with that timeline. In those cases, exceptions may be granted to the seven-day period.

Contact Us Now for a Free Consultation

If you believe that you’ve been denied your rights under the FMLA, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.

Email us at, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.