When an Employer Can Require a Medical Certification to Return to Work After FMLA Leave

When an employee takes leave for his or her own serious health condition, and the employer and employee are covered by the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, an employer may require a certificate from the employee that says the employee can return to work. However, the employer generally may only require a certificate that says the employee is able to work and not require additional certifications unless the employer has a reasonable, objective belief that the employee’s health condition will not permit the employee to peform the essential job requirements or that the employee can’t do so without posing a substantial risk of harm to the safety or welfare of the employee or others. Any such inquiry must be related to the particular job and for a legitimate business necessity. The employer must also generally require this of all employees returning to work after medical leave. And the employer may not require such a certification if the reason for the FMLA leave was to care for another. State law and collective bargaining agreement may modify the requirements and protections.