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May01

Fitness for duty certification

We have been using the Certification of Health Care Provider form WH-380-E to serve as our Fitness for duty certification to send to the Doctor after someone is ready to Return to Work during their FMLA absence. This is confusing the Doctors, because the form only addresses why someone is requesting leave. Is their another form we should be using, or could we make up our own? This is in response to the new FMLA guidelines that allows us to ask for more than a simple statement, that an employee can return to work.

You have pinpointed a problem with the U.S. Department of Labors current FMLA forms. While employers are permitted to get specific information on the employees fitness for duty upon return to work, there is no form that is provided for it.

You are right that the WH- 380 is primarily for certificaiton of a serious health condition. It is probably not appropriate to provide the doctor with this form as a release for duty. You certainly can devise your own fitness for duty form.

From a liability point of view, you may be better off if the doctor simply provides a blanket form stating that the employee is fit to perform all job duties. Getting a more specific release may actually increase your liability if the employee is re-injured. Creating your own form may increase that liability still more.

Suppose that Jane has been off work with a back injury, or a heart attack. Her doctor provides a blanket release that she can resume all her job duties. If Jane is re-injured, the employer has little or no liability — they are covered by the doctors release. However, suppose Janes employer provides a form that lists her job activities, including lifting weights over 25 lbs. and walking up to 2 miles per day. The doctor signs off on this list. However, Janes job also requires that she twists and bends regularly. But, the employer did not think to list that activity on the form. Jane suffers a relapse, and her doctor determines it is due to the twisting and bending. The employer might well be liable under these circumstances, because their form neglected to address this issue.

If you feel you must devise a form for a return to duty, our advice would be for it to simply have two check boxes. One box would be for *released to return to work, able to perform all duties with no restrictions*. The second box would be *released to return to work the following restrictions*. Supply blank lines for the doctor to list any and all restrictions. This way, if a particular restriction is not listed, it is the doctors liability, and not yours. (Of course you would have the employees name at the top and the doctors signature at the bottom.)

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009 at 9:24 am and is filed under
Attendance Management.
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25 Responses to “Fitness for duty certification”

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  24. allan Says:

    sounds to me like a bunch of useless HR reps who care more about saving their own ass rather then care about the privacy of the employee

  25. Caitlin Says:

    Hi allan! Well, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But we do not see how a fitness for duty release is a violation of the employees privacy. The doctor merely provides a statement that the employee is — or is not– healthy enough to return to work, performing his usual duties. There is no requirement for the doctor to release information on the employees diagnosis.

    Otherwise, the employer would be in an impossible position. They would have to return the employee to work because he said he was healthy, but would be liable for any injuries he caused himself or others, if he was lying. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

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