Many employers continue maintain a policy that employees who have been off due to a disability need to be completely healed before returning to work. Obviously, in my role as a workers’ compensation attorney, I’m not a fan of these policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) just gave employers 3.5 million more reasons why such policies should be abolished.
On June 5th, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it had reached a settlement in the case of EEOC v. Nevada Restaurant Services, Inc. The EEOC alleged that Nevada Restaurant Services “maintain[ed] a well-established companywide practice of requiring that employees with disabilities or medical conditions be 100 percent healed before returning to work.” The EEOC charged the company with violation the Americans with Disabilities Act and ADA Amendments Act due to failure to engage in the “interactive process or providing reasonable accommodations for disabled employees”.
.This is another reminder of the EEOC’s continuing focus on formal written policies requiring employees to be 100% recovered before returning to work and on employers’ administration of return to work requests and requests for reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to return to their former position, with modifications that do not affect the essential functions of their job.
So, when that employee recovering from surgery for a work-related injury comes to you and says that they want to return to work, remember that under the ADA you must allow for reasonable accommodations to enable them to return to work, if the requested accommodations do not affect the essential functions of their job.