After FMLA leave, you can require workers to provide back-to-work fitness certification

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Many employers have a standard policy that requires employees returning from sick leave to prove that they’re fit for work. If you have such a policy—and you apply it consistently—you can also require employees who use FMLA leave to provide the same certifications.

Recent case: David Verkade, a mail sorter for the U.S. Postal Service, suffered from Meniere’s disease. It can cause vertigo, severe dizziness, tinnitus and hearing loss.

The post office accommodated Verkade’s condition by allowing him to sort mail manually rather than by machine, as the machinery apparently could aggravate his condition.

But sorting by hand didn’t entirely solve Verkade’s problems. Sometimes, he would take off work because of severe dizziness.

He claimed FMLA leave for each instance. And each time, the post office required him to provide medical certification for the absence, along with a medical note indicating he was cleared to return to work.

The post office was concerned that if Verkade was still dizzy, he might hurt himself on other equipment at the facility.

Verkade sued, alleging he had been denied immediate reinstatement following FMLA leave.

A federal appeals court disagreed. It noted that employers can require returning employees to prove they’re capable of doing their jobs if the requirement applies to everyone absent for similar reasons and those who take FMLA leave aren’t singled out. It dismissed Verkade’s lawsuit. (Verkade v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 09-1268, 6th Cir., 2010)

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