HR Hotline: Can We Require an Employee to See a Doctor?

09.02.2016
HR & Safety

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:

  1. The duration of the risk
  2. The nature and severity of the potential harm
  3. The likelihood that potential harm will occur
  4. The imminence of the potential harm

A first report of injury should be submitted to your worker’s compensation carrier.

In your situation, a first report of injury should be submitted to your workers' compensation carrier regarding the bump on the head.
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.


HR problems? Email or call Mark Soycher at the HR Hotline (860.244.1900 | @HRHotline)

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