865 Return to Duty After Absence for Medical Reasons

865.1 Clearance Required: All Bargaining Unit Employees and Those Non-bargaining Unit Employees Returning From Non-FMLA Absences

The decision to clear an employee to return to work rests with management. Management can require employees who have been absent due to an illness, injury, outpatient medical procedure (surgical), or hospitalization to submit documentation (as set forth in 865.3) in order to clear their return to work when management has a reasonable belief, based upon reliable and objective information, that:

  1. The employee may not be able to perform the essential functions of his/her position; or
  2. The employee may pose a direct threat to the health or safety of him/herself or others due to that medical condition.

In making the decision whether to require documentation in order to clear the employee’s return to work, management must consider the following in order to make an individualized assessment:

  1. The essential functions of the employee‘s job,
  2. The nature of the medical condition or procedure involved, and
  3. Any other reliable and objective information.

When management is considering requesting return-to-work documentation, management should also seek guidance from the following regarding the return-to-work decision:

  1. Occupational health nurse administrator,
  2. Occupational health nurse, and/or
  3. Postal Service physician.

After consideration of the medical information, the employee’s working conditions, and any other pertinent information, management is to make the decision to clear the employee’s return. Medical personnel consult with management but do not have authority to clear the employee to return to duty.

In cases of occupational illness or injury, the employee will be returned to work upon certification from the treating physician, and the medical report will be reviewed by a Postal Service physician as soon as possible thereafter.

865.2 Non-bargaining Unit Employees Returning After FMLA Absence

To return to work from an FMLA-covered absence because of their own incapacitation, non-bargaining unit employees must provide a statement from their health care provider that they are able to return to work.This statement should also address the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of his or her position, with or without limitations (see 515.54). When employees take intermittent or reduced schedule leave, management can request a return-to-work clearance for such absences up to once every 30 days if reasonable safety concerns exist regarding the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties due to the medical condition in issue.

865.3 Documentation Required

Medical clearances pursuant to 865.1 must be detailed medical documentation and not simply a statement that an employee may return to work.

  1. There must be sufficient information to make a determination that the employee can perform the essential functions of his/her job, and do so without posing a significant risk of substantial harm to oneself or others.
  2. The documentation must note whether there are any medical restrictions or limitations on the employee’s ability to perform his/her job, and any symptoms that could create a job hazard for the employee or other employees.
  3. The occupational health nurse administrator, occupational health nurse, or Postal Service physician evaluates the medical report and, when required, assists placing employees in jobs where they can perform effectively and safely.

865.4 Assignments

Installation heads may temporarily assign any employee returning to duty to a modified work assignment during the employee’s rehabilitation/recovery period consistent with operational needs and obligations under any applicable collective bargaining agreement or federal law.

865.5 Fitness-for-Duty Examinations

If, after review of the documentation required in 865.3, the Postal Service physician questions whether an employee can perform the essential functions of his/her position, or whether he/she poses a direct threat to the health or safety of him/herself or others, the physician may require the employee to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination.