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Excuse disabled worker from strict attendance rules–but demand doctor’s note

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employees with multiple medical problems may need to be off work at unpredictable times. That can be a problem if a no-fault attendance policy requires terminating an employee with too many absences.

If you don’t want to fire an otherwise good worker, it’s perfectly reasonable to accommodate him by excusing him from the attendance policy—as long as he can provide a doctor’s note.

Recent case:
Richard Fimbres worked as a longshoreman in Los Angeles and had to work at least 70% of scheduled time. When Fimbres developed psychological and physical problems, he began missing work. He asked for reasonable accommodation—originally a reduced schedule.

Instead, his employer offered to excuse any absences for which he had a doctor’s note. As an alternative, it asked his therapist to suggest a regular, steady work schedule.

Fimbres opted for using the doctor’s notes. But then he began failing to produce notes when he missed work. He sued, alleging that requiring the notes wasn’t an accommodation.

The court disagreed and commended the employer for setting up a reasonable mechanism for handling what otherwise would have been unexcused absences. (Fimbres v. Pacific Maritime Association, No. B214520, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2010)

Final note: Employers should choose accommodations that best suit their business needs. Courts want to see employers offer accommodations, but also want to see businesses succeed. There’s no need to provide accommodations that disrupt workflow when other possibilities exist.

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