Self-diagnosis won’t cut it; require proof of disability — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Self-diagnosis won’t cut it; require proof of disability

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in Human Resources

Do you have an employee whose sniffles, coughing or health complaints drive co-workers crazy? Has she told you that she's disabled and can't help the snorting and sneezing? You don't need to tolerate such interruptions, and your organization has every right to ask the employee to "put up or shut up" about her ailments.

As the following case demonstrates, it takes more than self-diagnosis to create a disability under the ADA. As an employer, you're entitled to request medical documentation for employees who want accommodations, and you're free to discipline the inconsiderate co-worker if you don't get it.

Recent case: Susan Walker worked in a cubicle, in a large room with 25 other co-workers. She said that she suffered from asthma and allergies. Those maladies, she claimed, caused her to have coughing fits if she talked on the phone for more than two hours.

During particularly intense coughing fits, Walker would cough so long and hard that she had to vomit. Rather than go to the ladies room, she would simply vomit into her cubicle trash can.

The organization asked Walker to provide medical documentation for her condition. She didn't do so, and she continued vomiting into her cubicle trash can. After the company fired Walker, she sued, alleging that she was disabled under the ADA and should have been given accommodations for her coughing fits.

The court dismissed her case, ruling that she had not proved her disability under the law. The ADA requires independent proof of disability. An employee's self-diagnosis is not enough. (Walker v. Independence Blue Cross, No. 03-6396 E.D. Pa, 2005)

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