How do I handle an employee who is having seizures at work?

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How do I handle an employee who is having seizures at work?

We are a small, family owned business with three locations. Each location has

between 3-5 employees. We run candy kiosks that are placed in the middle of the common areas in shopping malls. For the last 8 years, we have structured our schedules so that people typically work alone except for during busy periods on the weekends. Recently, we hired a new staff member for our location in North Carolina. Shortly after starting with us, she began having seizures at home and on the way in to work one resulting in a driving accident. These seizures have prevented her

from coming to work. She is in the process of having many tests done to see what is going on. We have allowed her to continue working and have tried to be

accommodating to her situation by having scheduling someone else to work with

her even though we don’t need a second person on duty. Within the past few

weeks, she has had 2 seizures at work that required an EMS to be called and

that have caused a significant disruption to our sales on a busy day and also

distress to our other staff member and our local manager. On the last occasion,

the other staff member on duty was luckily there to catch her before her head hit

the hard tile floor. Right after this incidence, she verbally resigned with our

manager. After learning of her resignation, I sent her a very kind confirmation

letter acknowledging her resignation and wishing her success in the future, etc.

Five days later, she sent our manager a text message stating that she had no

recollection of resigning and that she was very confused and wants to come back to work. Apparently this can happen after a seizure. My question is Do I have any legal right to have her stop working until she gets the seizures under control? I am worried about her safety, my business and also liability issues if she falls and hurts herself on the job.

Asked on September 5, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

An employer is not required to accommodate an employee's medical condition if that cannot be done without unreasonable cost or disruption to the employer's business--such as from having the sole person at  location have a seizure, or having to pay for an otherwise unnecessary person to be at the location to keep an eye on her and/or fill in for her. In addition, the employer does not to incur any significant liability risk, as could happen were she to have a seizure while at work and injure herself or possibly a customer (since she is interacting with the public). Based on what you write, you would seem to be able to legally terminate her employment because a person with a seizure disorder cannot have the kind of position you describe. In addition, an oral resignation is effective--there is no legal need for a written one--so if she orally resigned, you do not need to let her know rescind it, even if claims she does not recall the resignation. You appear to be in a legal position to not have her work for you.


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