FMLA Articles

Around the world on FMLA


Certification fun knows no boundaries

Your employee, Kamila, has requested leave to care for her mother, Ana, who has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. You’re on the ball with the FMLA, and begin the process. The problem? Ana lives in Puerto Rico, and her health care provider does not know English.

Another employee, Mahendra, plans to travel to India to have surgery and has requested leave for his own serious health condition related to medical treatment and recovery time. His health care provider is unfamiliar with the FMLA certification form.

Are you prepared to properly administrate the FMLA in these global situations? What will you do when related certification troubles crop up?

Not as many differences as you might think

Luckily, administrating the FMLA when foreign health care providers are involved is quite similar to more common domestic cases. The fact that a certification may come from a health care provider in another country does not change an employee’s responsibilities under the law.

For example, consider Mahendra’s situation. His health care provider fails to complete the certification form, but provides other information indicating that Mahendra requires medical care. If the information does not provide as much information as would the certification form, you have the option to insist on the additional information.

If the certification/information isn’t complete or sufficient, just like any other situation, you are to return it to Mahendra with a written list of what is needed to make it complete and sufficient. As required under the law, give Mahendra seven calendar days (unless not practicable under the particular circumstances) to fix any certification deficiency. If the problems you’ve pointed out to Mahendra are not fixed in the resubmitted certification, you may deny the request for FMLA leave until a complete and sufficient certification is provided.

Of course, if you receive enough information to make your determination without the need for a certification, you should designate FMLA leave without a formal certification. Obtaining information from other countries could involve extenuating circumstances, which would require you to be more flexible regarding the timing.

Translation issues

Unlike Mahendra’s health care provider, the doctor providing treatment for Kamila’s mother returns a complete certification. Unfortunately for your organization, it’s written in Spanish. Worry not! You may require the employee to provide written translation of the certification upon request.

An FMLA situation involving treatment abroad doesn’t have to be scary. Remember your obligations under the law, apply your medical certification requirements as you would for domestic cases, and be prepared to deal with minor hiccups involving miscommunications.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.


The J. J. Keller LEAVE MANAGER service is your business resource for tracking employee leave and ensuring compliance with the latest Federal and State FMLA and leave requirements.