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Dangerous and Disabled: ADA’s ‘Direct Threat’ Rule

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. One of our employees, who has diabetes, is on the road a lot tending to patients in their homes. We’ve heard that she is having trouble seeing patient charts and difficulty pricking patients’ fingers for tests. What should we do? —M.J., New Jersey

A. The ADA requires you to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform their job’s essential functions. But an exception to that rule exists if disabled employees pose a “direct threat” to the safety of themselves or others. That may be the case here, but you need more information.

You can request that the employee provide information from her doctors about her condition and whether she can safely perform the job’s essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. If you review the information and determine that she poses a direct threat, you can transfer her to another position that she’s qualified for. If no such jobs exist, termination may be appropriate.

Your question also raises other red flags: If the employee is involved in an automobile accident on the job, you may be liable since you have reason to believe she may not be capable of driving safely. Also, she may injure a patient, exposing you to a negligence action. Given the consequences of doing nothing, consult an attorney or your insurance carrier immediately for guidance.

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