Have you ever suspected that one of your employees was not quite as injured or ill as he says? Employers certainly can insist on a medical examination to determine the exact nature and extent of workers’ medical problems—and any appropriate work restrictions.
Just make certain you treat all injured employees the same—don’t select some for more extensive testing and let others slide.
Recent case: Tommy Allen, who is black, worked for BMW on the assembly line and complained that he had carpal tunnel syndrome. Allen’s doctor agreed and placed him on medical restrictions that prevented him from returning to work at the plant.
BMW then sent Allen to another doctor, who could find no physical evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. The company then scheduled a follow-up appointment to see whether he could return to work, and whether he needed any restrictions at all. Allen missed the appointment.
BMW then warned Allen if he didn’t keep a new appointment, he would be fired. Allen showed, but refused to be examined. Instead, he asked the doctor to excuse him from work. When BMW found out Allen had refused the exam, it fired him.
Allen sued for race discrimination, alleging a white employee with a similar condition had not been fired for refusing to cooperate with medical evaluation procedures.
But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claims. It noted that the white co-worker had cooperated and did receive a carpal tunnel diagnosis after his private doctor and the company’s selected doctor both examined him. (Allen v. BMW Manufacturing, No. 07-1626, 4th Cir., 2007)
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