What to if an employee has pre-existing illness which has flared up due to the duties of their new job?

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What to if an employee has pre-existing illness which has flared up due to the duties of their new job?

My wife is a diabetic.Her diabetes has been controlled for years to where she has had a normal blood sugar with only taking a few pills. She started a new job 7 weeks ago. This new job has her traveling more than they told her. The added stress of traveling so much plus the erratic eating schedule, has caused her blood sugar to sky rocket to 4 times normal limits which required an urgent care visit. When she applied for the job, she answered that she did not have a disability because her diabetes had not been such. The doctor has said she should not travel and will state so to the company. Do we have any safeguards for job safety when she tells them she can’t travel? There are other positions in the company that would not require travel.

Asked on June 24, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

No, there are no safeguards, unfortunately, in this case:

1) While it is true that an employer may have to make "reasonable accommodations" for an employee's disability, the employee still must be able to do her job . For diabetes, a typical accommodation is allowing an employee more frequent breaks for food or monitoring his/her blood sugar, so he/she can balance his/her sugar level. However, that is not what you wife seems to be seeking--she does not want to travel. However, her job involves travel, which means that she cannot do her job with this restriction: an employer is not required to retain an employee who cannot do her job, and is also not required to give the employee a different job (a different job is NOT a "reasonable accommodation" in the eyes of the law). The employer may choose to let her have a new job, but it is voluntary for them to do so.

2) Only 7 weeks ago, your wife said she did not have a disability when she had a pre-existing condition; now she is saying she has a disability requiring an accommodation. Arguably, your wife committed fraud in the job application/hiring process by claiming no disability and that her diabetes would not affect her job and she could be terminated on that basis, too.


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