After taking FMLA leave, employees may be required by their employer to obtain a Fitness-for-Duty certification. This is usually required when the employee uses the time to tend to their own health issues, and the certification ensures that the employee is physically able to perform his or her job duties without compromising their own health or the well-being of other employees. Read more about the Fitness-for-Duty certification below.
What Is a Fitness-for-Duty Certification?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 allows workers to take an unpaid leave of absence if they develop a serious medical condition. If you are an employer, your workers may be covered under this act, but you may also require them to obtain a Fitness-for-Duty certification before returning to their old jobs. These certification requirements must be applied uniformly to all employees at your place of business. If any employee must obtain certification, you should provide advance notice before he or she returns to work. This is important to understand, as no employer can inform a worker of this requirement at a random date or time.
A Fitness-for-Duty certification helps an employer assess whether or not an employee is safe to return to their previous position after experiencing major health problems. The key elements of the certification process are listed below.
•Employers must issue a written Fitness-for-Duty certification requirement to all impacted employees.
•Any policy regarding certification must apply to all employees under similar circumstances.
•Employers must provide a written list of job functions that need to be cleared prior to certification.
•In most situations, an employer may not request a second or third opinion regarding an employee’s fitness level.
•Repeat certifications may be necessary if a case involves irregular leave or reduced job schedules.
•The employee will be held financially responsible for any costs stemming from the Fitness-for-Duty certification.
If an employee has questions or concerns regarding the legality of their employer’s actions, he or she has the right to consult an attorney.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employee may not be discriminated against due to his or her disabilities. This also applies to Fitness-for-Duty certifications since an exam could reveal important information regarding an employee’s disability. This means that an exam can only be performed in limited circumstances if an employee is currently suffering from a previous disability. According to ADA law, a Fitness-for-Duty examination may only be performed if:
•An employer sincerely believes that the employee’s health condition will prevent him or her from properly performing the functions of a job.
•The employer has reason to believe that the employee’s health condition will compromise his or her own safety or the safety of fellow employees.
There are additional aspects to the Fitness-for-Duty certification when it comes to doctor examinations. Employers cannot require an employee to submit to a medical exam that will be performed by the employer’s healthcare provider as a condition of returning to work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an employer can require an employee to obtain an exam from another health professional at his or her own expense. In short, an employer cannot prevent a worker from returning to the job while arranging for the employee to receive a medical examination. However, if a manager is still concerned about a medical condition after an employee returns to work, the employer may require another exam at the expense of the employee.
Fitness-for-Duty certifications are only required if an employee has recently taken time off due to a serious health issue and if the employee used FMLA leave to do so. Some of this information may seem complex, and as an employer, you may need to consult additional resources, such as an attorney or a federal agency.
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