Although not mandatory, many employers take advantage of a portion of the Family and Medical Leave Act that allows them to require employees returning from medical leave to provide certification that they are capable of performing the essential functions of the job. A provision of the new FMLA rules changes how such medical certifications are provided.
If the employer requires the employee’s healthcare provider to certify that the employee can perform the essential functions of the job, the employer must provide the employee with a list of such essential functions. This list must be provided no later than the time that the employee receives notice that his or her time away from work has been designated as qualifying FMLA leave.
In essence, the employer will need to provide the employee with a job description if it wants a detailed fitness-for-duty certification following FMLA leave. This requirement is not mandatory. The employer does not need to require any certification. It could also require a general statement that the employee is able to return to work, without the need to provide the list of essential job functions.
These new requirements take effect January 16.