Q: Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, most employees who qualify for protected medical leave are entitled to their jobs back once their doctor releases them. Are there any circumstances when an employer doesn't have to reinstate an employee?
A: The law does provide a few exceptions. An employer does not have to reinstate an employee if that person gave unequivocal notice of their intention not to return to work while on leave. Furthermore, an employer is not obligated to reinstate an employee if it is determined that the employee is incapable of performing the essential functions of their former job.
Q: Who decides whether an employee is capable of returning to work?
A: In most cases, an employer will require the employee's physician to certify, in writing, that the employee has completed medical treatment and to state whether there are any limitations to their returning to work. However, just because an employee's medical condition has improved does not necessarily mean they are capable of performing all the essential functions of their former job. That's why it is critical that the employer provide the physician with an accurate description of the job tasks and responsibilities.
Q: Are there any circumstances in which an employer can terminate an employee based on its belief that the employee is not capable of performing the job based on his medical condition?