The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that telemedicine visits with a health care provider will be considered in-person visits for the purposes of establishing that an employee or an employee’s family member has a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
As a refresher, if a serious health condition does not involve inpatient care, in order to entitle an employee to FMLA leave, the serious health condition must be accompanied by an “in-person treatment visit” within seven days of the first day of incapacity. At least one additional in-person treatment visit may be required if the patient is not subject to a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider.
The DOL updated its COVID-19 and the Family and Medical Leave Act Questions and Answers (question 12) to clarify that, until December 31, 2020, a telemedicine visit will be considered an in-person treatment visit if the telemedicine visit:
- includes an examination, evaluation, or treatment by a health care provider;
- is performed by video conference; and
- is permitted and accepted by state licensing authorities.
The DOL’s new guidance also emphasizes that, during the same timeframe, electronic signatures are acceptable on documentation used to establish a serious health condition.
What Employers Should Do
Employers that administer FMLA leave for their employees should ensure their human resources personnel or other internal decision-makers are aware of the DOL’s guidance and recognize qualifying telemedicine visits as satisfactory for purposes of certification of a serious health condition in 2020. Proactively informing the workforce that telemedicine visits are acceptable for FMLA purposes may also protect employees from potential COVID-19 exposure and help health care providers preserve personal protective equipment and patient-care supplies. Finally, employers should keep in mind that state family and medical leave laws may have corollary in-person treatment visit requirements, so employers shouldn’t assume telemedicine visits are sufficient for state leave eligibility, especially for employees who may be seeking PFML or PFL benefits under a state-administered or private plan.
What ReedGroup Is Doing
Throughout the pandemic, ReedGroup has worked with its clients to maximize flexibility in connection with leave-related medical documentation while remaining compliant with all applicable laws. ReedGroup’s operations team is up-to-date on the DOL’s guidance and will continue to ensure the appropriate standards are applied when evaluating the sufficiency of leave-related certifications and medical documentation.
If you’re looking for assistance managing claims or to ensure compliance across your organization, ReedGroup has solutions for you. Check out our offerings here.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.