Doctor Says Man is OK to Return to Work, But Company Says That’s Not Good Enough
Employer sued for disability discrimination over seizure disorder
An employee has an unexpected seizure during the work day. After he recovers, he gets clearance from his doctor to resume his job duties.
The question is this: Does the employer have to allow him back on the job?
That question was recently considered in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While this case settled before it went to trial, it provides an opportunity to examine workers’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Let’s take a look at what happened and what it might mean to you.
Kristoffer Gauthier worked in the production area at Neenah Paper Co. One day, to everyone’s surprise, he suffered a seizure during the work day.
The company placed Gauthier on medical leave. He was treated for a seizure disorder and was cleared by his doctor to return to work.
However, the company refused to allow Gauthier to come back to work until he could prove that he was totally free from the seizure disorder.
Gauthier was uncertain that he’d ever be able to provide such documentation. However, after several months the company allowed him to return to work on one condition: that he take his anti-seizure medication in front of the company nurse or designated coworkers.
Gauthier complained to the EEOC. The agency attempted to resolve the situation with the company, but the company wouldn’t budge.
Finally, the agency sued on Gauthier’s behalf. It alleged that the company violated the ADA by refusing to allow Gauthier to return to work for several months because of his disability and then requiring that he take his prescription under the company’s observation.
The company ultimately agreed to settle the case rather than take its chances in front a jury. It must pay Gauthier $33,000. The company must also submit to EEOC oversight in training managers about disability discrimination.
(The case discussed here is EEOC v. Neenah Paper, Inc.)
What You Need to Know
It’s important to know that ADA coverage is determined on a case-by-case basis. That is, there is no set list of conditions that are covered by the Act.
In addition to more obvious forms of discrimination, such as termination, the ADA also covers several more-subtle forms of potential discrimination. Those may include job application procedures, hiring, firing, promotion, pay, job training, and other terms and conditions of employment.
If you believe that you’ve been treated unlawfully due to a disability, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney who has experience fighting for workers’ rights under the ADA.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.