What to do if I am being harassed by my employer while I am on disability?

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What to do if I am being harassed by my employer while I am on disability?

I have been on disability for almost 3 months. I received an e-mail from HR stating that my employer can no longer accommodate my leave of absence and that they want to know if I can have my doctor release me on part-time work or with restrictions. I just faxed my employer a new note from my doctor putting me off of work for another month. The majority of the reason why I am on leave is due to the stress of my job but given the harsh laws of CA Workers Compensation laws I chose not to file work comp. I feel like I am being harassed like I am being forced to return to work even though my doctor has me off.

Asked on March 15, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with an employment attorney who can evaluate your situation in detail, but be prepared that there is a good chance that you do not have any recourse:

1) "Work stress" is actually almost certainly NOT considered a legally protected disability--if it were, half the work force would receive accomodations, workers compensation, etc. It is not "workable" to give people accomodations or compensation for this reason, and I am not familiar with cases providing for accomodation or compensation for work stress.

2) Even if work stress were considered a disability, the employer only has to make reasonable accomodations that let you work, but--

a) It may not be reasonable to have an employee out on leave indefinitely; an employer has a right to staff itself and get the job done. It does not necessarily have to allow someone to still have their job without working, and they're already allowed you a 3-month leave, which is actually fairly generous.

b) If the cause of the "disability" is work stress, then arguably you simply can't do the job at this employer--after all, once you return, the stress would set in again. That means that--if you can't do the job--there is no reasonable accomodation, so they don't need to accomodate you; if  you can't do it, you can't do it. After all--to use an extreme analogy--a blind man has no right to be a beach lifeguard or driving instructor, since he can't do those jobs. Similarly, if you can't handle the stress of  your position, the proper response is to look for a different position which you can do.


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