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Physician's Role is Critical in Establishing a Disability Discrimination Claim

If you want to file a claim against your employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act, be sure to involve your physician in determining whether you are in fact disabled, and be sure to communicate the physician's opinion to your employer, who must take it into account in making a reasonable accommodation.

Katherine Spurling began working for C&M Fine Pack, Inc in 2004 as an inspector/packer on then night shift. She began to show a pattern of decreased consciousness and alertness, and received several disciplinary warnings. She then met with her supervisors and produced a note from her doctor stating that her sleep problems were caused by the medication he had prescribed. She was given the ADA form to be filled out by the doctor, on which he marked "yes" by the box asking if the patient had a mental or physical disability covered under the ADA, and stated that "add'n medical work up in progress". Within a week, she was fired.

The ADA requires a reasonable accommodation for disabled workers. What did the employer do wrong? According to the court (Spurling v. C&M Fine Pack, Inc., No. 13-1708 (7th Cir. Jan. 13, 2014), after receiving the ADA form filled out by the physician, the employer disregarded the medical evaluation, and never contacted the physician to determine the severity of the claim or how it could be reasonably accommodated. These facts could support a claim under the ADA.

So if you have a potential disability claim, be sure that your employer contacts your physician and works with him or her to accommodate your disability. Failure to do so may entitle you to make a successful claim.

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