Under the law, where the employee’s FMLA/CFRA certification is unclear about his health condition and his/her ability to return to work, an employer’s policy may lawfully require an independent medical examination (IME) to determine the employee’s fitness to return to work.
For example, in one case, an employee who was on FMLA leave because of a chronic back problem, submitted her treating physician’s certification that she may return to work. However, her doctor also stated that she should “avoid stressful working conditions.” Finding that FMLA certification confusing, the employer used its customary practice, incorporated in the collective bargaining agreement, and informed employee that an independent medical exam was required for her to return to work. The employee refused the exam, and as a result was fired. The court found that the employer did not violate FMLA.
Where the employee has been timely notified that a fitness for duty report will be required and has failed to provide the report, the employer may refuse to reinstate the employee until the certification is provided. If an employee does not provide either a fitness-for-duty report or a new medical certification for a serious health condition at the time the FMLA leave is concluded, the employee’s position may be lawfully terminated.