of absence from work) to obtain medical certification from the health care provider of the employee that the employee is able to perform the essential functions of his or her position.  The information on the medical certification to return to work must relate only to the serious health condition for which FMLA leave was taken.   

The statute permits an agency to require an employee to provide medical certification from his or her health care provider that the employee is able to resume work.  In most circumstances, an agency must return to work an employee who has provided a completed medical certification.  An agency may not require a second or third opinion on the medical certification to return to work.  If an employee submits medical certification but an agency believes that the employee is not fully recovered when he or she returns to work, may be a danger to himself or herself or others, or is a disruptive force in the worksite, the agency may take action under 5 CFR part 752 or other appropriate authority.  If the agency believes that additional medical documentation would be helpful in determining appropriate action, the agency may offer a medical or psychiatric examination under 5 CFR 339.302.

    If an employee returns to work without the required documentation, an agency may delay the return of an employee until acceptable medical certification is provided.  During this period of delay, an agency may grant the employee's request for appropriate leave.  If the employee refuses to request leave until the medical certification is provided, or does not provide the required medical certification, the agency may use the procedures provided under 5 CFR part 752 to place the employee on enforced leave, suspend the employee, or remove the employee, as appropriate.

One commenter disagreed with OPM's requirement that agencies notify employees before leave commences of the employee's obligation to provide medical certification to return to work.  The agency noted that this requirement under the FMLA is not appropriate where employees are already on a standing notice that all absences due to illness of a certain duration will require a medical certification to return to work.  The statute and legislative history specify the medical certification that may be required under the FMLA.  If an agency's policy requiring medical certification, including certification to return to duty, is more stringent than that required under the FMLA, the agency may not apply its own policy to an employee invoking leave under the FMLA.  However, to accommodate situations in which the need for leave is not foreseeable--e.g., a medical emergency--§ 630.1208(i) has been revised to state that an agency must notify an employee of the requirement to provide medical certification to return to work bfore the leave commences, or to the extent practicable in emergency medical situations.

  A commenter objected to the requirement that the agency must pay for the medical certification to return to work.  Since the request for medical certification to return to work is at the discretion and direction of the agency, the agency assumes the responsibility to pay for the expenses.