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I have an employee who was off on unpaid medical leave and his doctor said he could come back. He is unable to perform his job duties and is a very high risk around heavy machinery. What do I do?

When an employee is released to return to work but is not actually capable of performing the job, it often means the physician is not aware of what the employee’s job really entails. Hopefully, you have thorough and up-to-date job descriptions that list the duties that this employee is required to perform. I would suggest you send the job description to the employee’s physician and let him/her review and determine if the employee is physically capable of performing the necessary job duties. If, after reviewing the job description, the physician determines that the employee is not able to perform the job, you then have to decide whether or not you will provide restricted or “light duty” work, based on the anticipated length of partial disability, whether or not this is an ADA claim, what you have done in the past, etc.

How you proceed will depend on the specifics of the situation. For example, if the employee now falls under the protection of ADA, you will need to go through the interactive process with him to determine what type of accommodations he needs and whether or not you can reasonably provide these accommodations. If the employee has not yet exhausted his maximum leave time, whether FMLA or a company-provided sick leave, the physician may elect to place him back on leave.

If it is determined that the employee is physically capable of doing the work but still cannot or will not, you may have a performance issue on your hands which you can deal with as you would any other employee who is unable to perform his job, either by moving him to another less physically-demanding position, progressing him through the disciplinary process, etc.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 6:47 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management, Performance Management, Workplace Health & Safety.
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