HR Hotline: Can We Require an Employee to See a Doctor?
Q: Can we require an employee to be examined by a company-designated doctor after incurring a work injury? The employee claims it was only a minor bump on his head and says he can’t afford time off to see a doctor with all the pressure he’s under at home. He also insists that the pills he’s taking are relieving the headaches, so climbing ladders and working on a raised work surface is not a problem. He’s claiming we are out to get him, and if we continue to persecute him, he may have to “take it up a notch with the powers that be.” Normally a cooperative, respectful worker, his not-so-subtle threat in response to what we intended as a reasonable inquiry about his well-being took us by surprise.
A: Your employee’s changed demeanor, reference to pressure at home, headaches, and threatened confrontation with management give you objective, observed evidence that he may pose a direct threat due to a suspected physical or possibly mental health condition.
Requiring a current employee to undergo a medical exam after a work injury is permissible under the disability law if it is “job related and consistent with business necessity.”
That means you have a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by the medical condition, and/or the employee will pose a direct threat to self or others.
A direct threat must not be vague suspicion but rather one of significant risk of substantial harm that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation, taking into account:
- The duration of the risk
- The nature and severity of the potential harm
- The likelihood that potential harm will occur
- The imminence of the potential harm
A first report of injury should be submitted to your worker’s compensation carrier.
You may also insist that your employee submit to a medical examination to evaluate a possible head injury and treatment options, including the pills he is taking, before you will consider him fit for duty.
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