Can I be terminated for having work restrictions ordered by a doctor?

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Can I be terminated for having work restrictions ordered by a doctor?

I am employed with my present employer for 1 year. I have a low back injury that took place 20 years ago. I have since been under a doctor’s care and have been put on work restrictions. I was advised today by my supervisor that I am to request that my doctor remove the restrictions or else I will loose my job. It’s my employer’s policy that no one is allowed to work if they have work restrictions.

Asked on February 22, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, South Dakota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The situation you describe is somewhat complex--you should consult in person with an employment law attorney. The reason it is complex:

1) Assuming your back injury qualifies as a disability, which it may, an employer would have to offer you reasonable accomodations for it. A reasonable accomodation is a change in job duties, or some assistitive devices or technology, which is not too expensive or disruptive. Because employers are required to consider reasonable accomodations, they may not have a blanket policy of not considering work restrictions.

2) On the other hand, as noted above, the employer's only obligation is to make "reasonable accomodations." If your job cannot reasonably accomodate the restrictions on you, the employer may terminate you. Two examples: if a security guard, whose job involves doing rounds on foot, cannot walk for more than 10 minutes at a time, it may be impossible for him to do the job; or if a warehouse employee whose job is to pick from shelves cannot bend or lift more than 10 lbs,she may not be able to do that job.

Therefore, your employer's policy may be illegal, but depending on your job and the restictions, it is possible they do not need to accomodate you and may fire you if you can't do your job. That is why you must consult with an attorney.


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