Can my employers change the wording that is in my doctor’s ADA letter?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can my employers change the wording that is in my doctor’s ADA letter?

My doctor allowed for up 24 hours in a work week due to my migraines. My employer reduced me to part time, 4 hours per day, 5 days per week, but they also changed my accommodation to say that I can miss

Asked on April 13, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Your doctor's note does NOT control the employer--people commonly think it does, but it does not. The doctor, after all, is not an owner, executive, etc. of your employer. 
The employer only needs to make a "reasonable accommodation" to your medical condition, but generally, reducing or limiting your hours is NOT considered a "reasonable accommodation": a reasonable accommodation is a not-too-expensive or disruptive change in rules or procedures (or a not-too-expensive assistive device or furniture) which lets you do you *entire* job...that is, if you had been full time previously, that would let you work full time. They don't have to let you work shorter or reduced hours, and if they are, they are going beyond what they have to do. Shortened hours are not something they have to grant.
Furthermore, an employer can hold an employee liable for things he/she does, even if they are affected by a medical condition (they can't discriminate for you *having* the condition, but they can respond to your actions or behavior). If you voluntarily take on extra hours knowing the rules about signing up for overtime, they can hold you accountable for then missing the hours you signed up for--since, after all, it was your voluntary act to sign up for those hours, and then your action to miss the hours.
So in sum, they do not need to follow the doctor's note as is; they do not need to shorten your hours if you had been hired for more hours in the first place, and you are fortunate if they are letting you work shorter hours; and if you sign up for overtime knowing the rules, you can be held accountable for missing it.

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