Failure to document disability nixes employee’s ADA protection

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When United Parcel Service (UPS) grounded pilot Gary Walsh, he agreed that he shouldn't be flying. A recent car accident had affected his memory and hand-eye coordination.

Walsh's doctor requested a three-month leave and UPS' doctor concurred. But the leave stretched on and on. About a year later, UPS started requesting information on Walsh's work restrictions and projected return date. In a dozen contacts, UPS got little or no information. Walsh's doctor failed to offer a diagnosis, did not identify a disability and refused to release him to work.

After Walsh failed to meet UPS' final deadline for information, the company fired him. He sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and lost. The court ?said Walsh never proved that he was disabled, plus, UPS had the right to medical information that Walsh failed to provide. (Walsh v. UPS, No. 98-6466, 6th Cir., 2000)

Advice: Make sure your policies require timely, specific information on employees' work restrictions, treatment plans and projected return-to-work date. As with all policies, apply them consistently and neutrally.

Remember: While a leave of absence can be an accommodation under the ADA, you don't have to extend that leave indefinitely.

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