Must an employer accommodate doctor’s orders?

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Must an employer accommodate doctor’s orders?

My husband had surgery to remove skin cancer cells. His doctor wrote a medical release to not lift over 20 pounds. His employer told him it needed to be 30 pounds are he would not be able to work. His doctor rewrote the release for 30 pounds. Now they are forcing him to take vacation, no pay or apply for short term disability until the stitches are removed. They are saying that his job still requires to lift over 30 pounds. He was hired as part of management last year and has the ability to do a number of things under his job title.

Asked on April 4, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

What many people do not realize is that a doctor's note is not legally binding on an employer. In other words, such a note need not be honored. Additionally, a company is free to terminate an at-will worker who misses too much work since attendance is typically a basic requirement of a job. That having been said, such absences are protected if the employee uses available PTO (i.e. sick or vacation time); the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act); the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act); or workers' compensation laws. Otherwise, unless they have protection under the terms of an employment contract or union agreement, a business is free to set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit or deems necessary.


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