Company Refuses to Allow Worker Back on the Job After Seizure
Man claims that employer disregarded doctor’s medical clearance
Who has the final say in whether a worker is allowed back on the job after a medical incident? Is it the doctor or the employer?
A recent court case looked at this question and provides some insight into workers’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Kristoffer Gauthier had been working in the production area at Neenah Paper Co. for seven years when, one day in November 2012, he suddenly fell to the floor. He was suffering a seizure.
Gauthier was placed on medical leave. He was diagnosed him with a seizure disorder and given a treatment plan that included a prescription medication to control future seizures. He was then cleared to return to work.
However, when Gauthier attempted to resume his job duties, he found out that the company had other ideas. He was told that he would be allowed to return to work only if he could provide documentation that he had completely recovered from the seizure disorder.
With the unpredictable nature of his condition, Gauthier told company managers that he wasn’t sure that was possible.
Finally, after Gauthier had been on leave for several months, the company relented. However, now it presented Gauthier with a new condition for return: He would be required to take his anti-seizure medication in front of the company nurse or designated coworkers every day.
After months of frustration, that was the last straw. Gauthier complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which sued on his behalf. It alleged that the company violated Gauthier’s rights under the ADA, first by refusing to allow him to return to work, and then by requiring him to take his medication under the company’s observation.
Before the case made it to trial, the company decided to settle. It agreed to pay Gauthier $33,000 and provide additional training to managers about disability discrimination.
(For more information on this case, see EEOC v. Neenah Paper, Inc.)
Discrimination comes in many forms
While this case never made it to trial, it does bring up some interesting aspects of the ADA.
For example, people who are covered by the ADA generally can’t be made to submit to additional requirements that wouldn’t be expected of other employees, such as taking medications under company supervision.
They also may not be required to provide medical information that does not directly pertain to their job tasks.
If an employer believes that a disability may pose a safety threat, the employee may be required to provide additional documentation or to undergo additional medical exams. However, once again, it’s important to note that additional inquiries or exams must be based on the person’s job tasks.
If you believe that your rights under the ADA have been compromised, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.