Can employers require a medical evaluation following FMLA leave?

On Behalf of Dunlap Fiore, LLC |

At some point in their career, an individual may need to use the Family Medical Leave Act. Typically, before FMLA is approved, an employer requires an employee to produce medical proof or certification that the leave is necessary. However, when it is time for an employee to return to their job from FMLA leave, can an employer require a post-FMLA medical evaluation to make sure that the employee is able to perform their assigned duties?

Louisiana residents may find it helpful to learn that according to the American Disability Act an employer may be able to request a medical evaluation after reinstating an employee. In fact, a post-FMLA medical evaluation was put to test in a recent case. In that case, an investigator who was working at a county district attorney’s office started suffering from anxiety and mood swings that apparently were manifesting in relation to a depression disorder that she was suffering from.

After getting a proper diagnosis she submitted an extended leave request under FMLA in order to receive professional medical help with her disorder. When her leave was up and her treatment was successfully completed she returned to her job with a note from her doctor that certified that she was ready and able to resume her previous position and all the responsibilities that it entails without any cause for concern for her not being able to meet them in stride.

Her office immediately approved her request to start work but also required that she submit to fitness-for-duty medical examination. Her employer had noted that her behavior was erratic prior to her requesting her FMLA medical leave and thus they wanted to make sure that a repeat in behavior was not likely. The investigator refused to take the medical exam that was requested by her employer and was terminated from her position as a result of her insubordination.

She sued her employer citing her rights for re-employment under FMLA. The courts did not rule in her favor and noted that as long as the employee is reinstated before they are required to take a post-reinstatement medical exam then no rights have been violated.

FMLA provisions and ADA provisions are complex. Employers should make sure they understand these laws, so they can act appropriately in their given situations.

Source: Business Management Daily, “Post-FMLA exam is OK-after reinstatement,” June 10, 2014