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ERISA: No need to defer to employees’ physicians in disability disputes.

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in Human Resources

When a dispute arises over whether an employee's injury makes him eligible for disability benefits, you don't have to defer to the employee's personal doctor's opinion.

Courts had been split on whether employer-sponsored disability plans must apply a "treating physician rule" when evaluating an employee's claim. But the Supreme Court settled the issue.

The case involved an employee with a back injury who sought long-term disability benefits. The employee's doctor supported his claim, but his employer's independent exam found that the injury didn't prevent the worker from performing his job. So it denied his eligibility for benefits. The employee argued that the company must follow his personal doctor's advice. But the Supreme Court disagreed. (Black & Decker Disability Plan v. Nord, No. 02-469)

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