Fitness-for-Duty Certification Requirements and the FMLA

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Published Date: 05/27/2014

 

John; Gupton

By John Gupton

 

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) entitles eligible employees working for covered employers to take up to 12 or 26 weeks of unpaid leave of absence in a 12-month period for certain medical and family reasons. Employers covered by the FMLA must grant unpaid leave to an eligible employee for any of the following reasons:

 

  • The birth of a son or daughter, and to care for the newborn child;
  • The placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent with a serious health care condition; and
  • Because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of the employee’s job.

 

In addition, eligible employees with a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is a servicemember on covered active duty may use their 12-week entitlement to address certain qualifying exigencies. The FMLA also includes a special leave entitlement that permits eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered servicemember or veteran during a single 12-month period.

 

As a condition of restoring an employee who was absent on FMLA leave due to the employee’s own serious health condition, an employer may have a uniformly applied policy or practice that requires all similarly situated employees who take leave for such conditions to submit a certification from the employee’s own health care provider that the employee is able to resume work. Under the regulations, an employer may require that the fitness-for-duty certification address the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position if the employer has appropriately notified the employee that this information will be required and has provided a list of essential functions.

 

Additionally, an employer may require a fitness-for-duty certification up to once every 30 days for an employee taking intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave if reasonable safety concerns exist regarding the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties based on the condition for which leave was taken.

 

If an employee fails to submit a properly requested fitness-for-duty certification, the employer may delay job restoration until the employee provides the certification. If the employee never provides the certification, he or she may be denied reinstatement.

 

For more information on the FMLA, go to http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.

 

If you have FMLA questions, please contact a member of CAI's Advice & Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

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