It’s not always easy to accommodate disabled employees. You want to follow the law, but you also want to make sure that the employee isn’t a danger to herself or others if she has a serious condition like epilepsy.
But it is possible to handle these tricky situations right—as the employer did in this case.
Recent case: Deborah Perry worked for Wayne ARC, where she was a direct support professional. Perry was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, but did not have any problems with her condition that affected her work during her first nine years on the job. She had disclosed her condition when she was hired.
Then she had a seizure and requested permission to leave work early for treatment. Her employer agreed. Because she was scheduled for vacation, she didn’t return to work for about a week.
That’s when Perry’s supervisors told her she needed a fitness-for-duty certificate from her treating physician. Until she produced one, she would not be allowed to drive clients.
She was also assigned to another location where she would not have sole responsibility for clients.
Months later, she filed a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights, alleging disability discrimination. Then she tookfor epilepsy treatment. She returned to work and continued to work at Wayne ARC for two more years before receiving her first “verbal counseling.”
Perry then filed a lawsuit, alleging disability discrimination.
But the court tossed out her case, noting that the employer had done nothing wrong. It was entitled to ask for a fitness-for-duty certificate because the request was job-related and consistent with business necessity. Plus, Perry’s driving duties had merely been suspended pending an exam. The court said her transfer was also a reasonabledecision, not an adverse employment action. (Perry v. Wayne ARC, No. 10-CV-6337, WD NY, 2010)