Foreign Doctor Medical Certifications

Questions can arise when an employee presents a medical certification from a Mexican or Canadian doctor. This is particularly true if the employee presented a U.S. doctor’s note indicating the employee was not released to perform his or her duties, and subsequently presents a new note from a foreign practitioner that says the opposite. Which should employers accept?

Both medical certifications are valid, because under the Family and Medical Leave Act, as long as the doctor is authorized to practice medicine in their home country, employers can rely on the doctor’s opinion. Therefore, in the above example, the employer could accept the newest note from the foreign doctor that released the employee back to work if the foreign doctor’s note is legible, understandable, and includes the same information normally contained in the Department of Labor’s model certification.

If there is reason to doubt the doctor’s credentials in their home country, the employer can try to obtain verification of the physician’s license, or alternatively, have the employee see an employer-provided doctor for a second opinion at the employer’s expense. However, there is no requirement to do so.

What if the note is written in a foreign language? The employer can require the employee to have it translated, but it may be preferable for the employer to handle the translation to ensure the content’s legitimacy.

Contact Employers Council for consultation on medical certification questions or to enroll in one of our many courses on leave management.