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Employee's Return From Medical Leave Denied

May 2, 2006
Related Topics: Disabilities, Employee Leave, Featured Article
Mindy Bloom started working for Metro Heart Group as an ultrasound sonographer in March 2000. Her job required that she grip a machine for 95 percent of her workday. In March 2002, Bloom began to feel pain from carpal tunnel syndrome and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Metro’s doctor recommended that she limit her job to "light gripping" and "no gripping" with either hand for more than 15 minutes per patient, a restriction that Bloom admitted was not practical for most patients.

    On May 2, 2002, Metro advised Bloom that she could not to return to work without a fitness-for-duty certificate by a physician and placed her on Family and Medical Leave Act leave. Bloom was unable to secure medical releases, either from her own or Metro’s doctors. When Bloom had still not secured a fitness-for-duty certificate by July 30, 2002, Metro terminated her on the grounds that she was unable to do the job.

    Bloom filed suit against Metro, alleging retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim and violation of the FMLA. A U.S. district court dismissed her claims.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit affirmed. It held that the FMLA does not require employers to allow employees to remain in positions that the employee cannot perform. "Bloom need only be treated similarly to other employees on FMLA leave at Metro," the court found in concluding that the employer’s fitness-for-duty requirement complied with the FMLA. Bloom v. Metro Heart Group, 05-2682 (8th Cir., 3/16/06).

    Impact: Employer policies should require employees on medical leave to submit a fitness-for-duty certificate from a health care provider as a condition of reinstatement.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Workforce Management, April 24, 2006, p. 7 --Subscribe Now!

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