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Return to Work and Fitness-for-Duty Certification Challenges Under the FMLA and ADA

Complying With Notice, Reasonable Accommodation and Other Requirements; Minimizing Interference and Retaliation Claims

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will prepare employment counsel to help their clients navigate return-to-work and fitness-for-duty certification issues when an employee is due to return from ADA- or FMLA-protected leave. The panel will outline an employer’s obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other leave protection laws and outline best practices for avoiding interference and retaliation claims.


Managing an employee’s return to work after FMLA leave is challenging for employers, especially when the employee requests additional time beyond the 12 weeks that FMLA requires. An interactive process between the employer and employee is critical to determining whether the employer is legally obligated under the ADA to provide an accommodation to the employee, which could include extending the leave, holding the employee’s job open, and/or giving light duty work upon their return.

When an employee returns from FMLA leave related to a severe health condition, the employer may require a fitness-for-duty certification from a healthcare provider, as long as the employer provides the employee notice of that requirement when FMLA leave is granted. Employment counsel must guide clients on when to request and how to evaluate fitness-for-duty certifications and ensure consistent administration of return-to-duty certifications.

To minimize missteps when managing return to work issues, employment counsel should advise their clients to require documentation of the employee’s medical condition and its impact on the employee’s ability to perform the job; examine the essential job functions as specified in the formal job description; and evaluate whether the employer can offer a reasonable accommodation so that the employee can perform essential job functions. The employer should document the process and outcome in detail throughout to minimize or defend against interference or retaliation claims.

Listen as our authoritative panel discusses essential considerations and best practices for employers to ensure that their return to work and fitness-for-duty certification practices are legally compliant.



  1. FMLA brief overview
  2. FMLA return to work requirements
  3. FMLA-ADA interplay for employees returning from FMLA leave
  4. Managing fitness-for-duty certifications under the FMLA and ADA
  5. Best practices for avoiding interference and retaliation claims


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What are the requirements under the FMLA for employers managing return to work matters?
  • What best practices should employers follow to determine if an employee returning from FMLA leave is entitled to an accommodation under the ADA?
  • When may an employer require an employee returning from FMLA to produce a fitness-for-duty certification?


Dowell, L. Eric
L. Eric Dowell

Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart

Mr. Dowell represents employers on a wide variety of matters involving discrimination, accommodating disabilities and...  |  Read More

Mook, Jonathan
Jonathan R. Mook


Mr. Mook is a nationally recognized authority on the ADA and is the author of two treatises, “Americans with...  |  Read More

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