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Employee must notify you of change in disability status

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in Human Resources

David Wurzbach had leukemia, so his doctor recommended limited public contact to reduce his risk of infection. Because his job with the City of Tacoma required lots of public interaction, the city created a new position for him.

When another job opened up that also involved heavy public contact, the city didn't consider Wurzbach. He sued.

What the city didn't know was that Wurzbach's leukemia was in remission. He had mentioned this to his immediate supervisor but hadn't informed the personnel office of his change in status.

The court tossed out his suit, saying it was Wurzbach's duty to notify his employer of his change in status. It's unreasonable, the court said, to make an employer continually inquire about his health. (Wurzbach v. City of Tacoma, No. 25125-6-II, Washington CA, 2001)

Advice: Just as you should not probe too deeply into the private affairs of your employees to see if they have disabilities, you also should not be expected to know when an employee no longer needs an accommodation. It's up to him to keep you informed.

However, you're not totally off the hook. Courts won't react kindly if you turn a blind eye toward obvious disabilities or changes in disabilities. Stay alert for any visible changes and be prepared to address them.

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