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Can we demand certification of violent employee’s alleged mental illness?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. One of our employees physically threatened her co-workers. When confronted about the incident, the employee claimed that her behavior resulted from being bipolar. May we ask the employee to provide medical certification to prove that she is bipolar?

A. Yes. In effect, the worker is requesting a reasonable accommodation in the form of different discipline for threatening a co-worker. You cannot determine the severity and extent of the necessary accommodation without knowing what medical restrictions the employee is under.

With the medical information in hand, you can assess whether the employee is actually disabled within the ADA’s definition.

Your employee likely qualifies as ­disabled under the ADA. The EEOC’s “Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA” provides examples of impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities, including bi­polar disorder.

What are our accommodation obligations if it turns out sh...(register to read more)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise October 16, 2012 at 11:26 am

Since the employee did not notify the employer of the medical condition until after the threat, the employee is not shielded from discipline for violating workplace policy. The employer can discipline the employee, and then enter into the interactive process regarding an accommodation. Otherwise, employees would be claiming disabilities every time they violate policy.


bbixenstine October 16, 2012 at 8:43 am

karen is right. It is not a reasonable accommodation to excuse an employee from the disciplinary consequences of conduct on the basis of the employee’s disclosure of a disability. The disclosure may be the basis for a last chance agreement, if the employee would other wise have been discharged, and that last chance agreement could involve a requirement of some kind of treatment. If the employee requests some other kind of accommodation (such as leave to get treatment) then, assuming the employee is not justifiably discharged for the threat, the employer has to address the request as any other request for accommodation by a disabled person.


karen October 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm

An employer is not required to accommodate a violent employee, as the same represents an undue hardship to the employer. Furthermore, if the offending employee causes harm to others, the employer could be exposed to liability. The existence of a disability does not require an employer to maintain an unsafe work environment. Such a requirement would frustrate the intent of the ADA.


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