Return to Work

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Summary:

An employee injured off the job would like to return to work, but we’re concerned about her safety and her ability to do the job. How should we proceed? We’re a small employer and not subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Question:   

What does an employer need to do if an employee is injured off the job and would like to return to work? The employer is concerned about her safety and ability to do the job? (This employer is under 50 employees so is not subject to Family and Medical Leave Act).

Answer:

If the employer has reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that the employee’s ability to perform the essential job functions will be compromised, they may consider requiring a doctor’s release prior to allowing the employee to return to work. Example of objective evidence could be the employee’s description of the injury and how long it will take to recover.  With the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability-related or medical examinations may only be made when they are “job related and consistent with business necessity.”    It is imperative that the employer consider the specific job the employee has.  A good example of this would be a job that requires physical labor, which would justify requesting a doctor’s release more than for an employee that sits at a desk the entire day.

If the employer determines there are valid concern about the employee’s ability to do their job, I would recommend informing her you will need a doctor’s release prior to her coming back to work.  Make sure you describe your concern about her ability to perform her position. 

Our office can assist with these situations to ensure you stay compliant with the laws.

Mary Jo Vance, SHRM-SCP

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