It’s perfectly acceptable to require employees who want to return to work following an absence to present a fitness-for-duty certificate from a medical provider. Just make sure you require it from all similarly situated employees, not just those who have been out on.
Recent case: Liza, who has epilepsy, worked for an armored truck carrier, first as a driver and later as a vault supervisor. She fainted during a shift and underwent treatment before returning to work without any problems.
Subsequently she was transferred to the vault supervisor position. Four years after the first incident, she had a seizure at work.
The employer asked her to takeleave, which she did. Then, when her FMLA leave had almost expired, her supervisor reminded her that, like other employees out on medical leave, she had to get her doctor to certify her fitness for duty.
She did not provide a completed form by the end of her leave, and the company gave her more time off.
Liza filed an EEOC complaint anyway, alleging retaliation and interference with her FMLA right to return to work.
The case went to trial and at the time, Liza was still out on leave because she hadn’t yet provided the certification. She lost her case and appealed.
The appellate court refused to reinstate Liza’s lawsuit after the employer explained all the efforts it had undertaken to get her back to work. That included offering to pay for the fitness examination. The court concluded the employer had worked diligently to get her back to work and had in no way interfered with Liza’s. (Ariza v. Loomis Armored, Inc., No. 16-30131, 5th Cir., 2017)
Final note: Make sure you document all efforts to bring your employees back to work following FMLA leave.