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Must employers follow doctor’s orders related to disabilities?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2024 | Employment Discrimination

Employers typically hire the most competent and skilled people that they can for positions. They also have an obligation to accommodate those with disabling medical conditions who are capable of performing a job. Both workers applying for a job who may require support from the company and those already working somewhere who develop or acquire a medical condition me worry about disability discrimination. If someone has a disabling medical condition but is otherwise capable of performing a job, they may simply need certain types of support to start a job or maintain their current employment.

Assistive technology, regular breaks, modifications of job responsibilities and even changes to company facilities could all be necessary to help someone remain employed or get a job when they have a disabling medical condition. Do businesses have an obligation to follow a doctor’s recommendations regarding the needs of a worker with a disabling medical condition?

Yes, most businesses must accommodate workers

With exceptions for very small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, most companies should try to work with individuals who have disabling medical conditions and other health challenges. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations when necessary to allow people to continue working or to take a job with the company.

The refusal to provide accommodations as outlined by a medical professional for an otherwise competent and capable worker is perhaps the most common form of disability discrimination reported in the United States. Workers should be able to count on companies to help them succeed rather than punishing them for a health issue that is outside of their control.

How do workers make use of this right?

Employees who are aware of their rights under the ADA can ask their employers for accommodations. Typically, they need written instructions from their physician outlining the accommodations that they require. The company may have a specific process that those requesting accommodations need to follow. It is only in situations where a business could reasonably claim that the requested accommodations present an undue hardship that it could justify refusing to support a worker with a medical condition affecting their ability to perform a job.

If a company refuses to reasonably accommodate a worker or takes punitive actions in response to a request for accommodations, then the worker may have grounds for a disability discrimination claim against the organization. Understanding the laws that protect workers with unique challenges may help them pursue the support they require for a healthy and productive life.