The type of leave doesn’t really matter in this instance, whether it is LWOP or sick or FMLA. When you use the term “authenticate,” do you mean the questions to the health care provider would be something like: “Is this the document you signed?” or “Are these dates correct?” If so, then either a supervisor or HR staff member can do that.
There is actually case law on this issue regarding FMLA. The case is Probasco v. Air Force, No. 2010-3182 (Fed. Cir. 2011)) (unpublished). Probasco argued that the Air Force violated FMLA by contacting the physician’s assistant whose name was on the medical certificate received, where they learned that it was not that person’s signature. The Federal Circuit found no violation.
As long as you are not asking for disclosure of medical information or asking for an explanation of medical findings (such as why the employee needs to be out so long), you can verify signatures, dates, and ensure that explanations are accurate, etc. We suggest you do it in writing with a cover memo on top explaining that you are simply verifying the info and send it by fax to the health care provider. It’s safest to not use e-mail. Also, think twice before you do it by phone. If it is important enough to try to verify the information, the agency should want to see a written response.
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