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Posted 10/13/2016

What Can an Employer Do When Illness Interferes with Work?

Part II In part one, we discussed how an employer can spot trouble, offered basic tips to manage the situation, and suggested reasons why a personal crisis, a chronic illness, or a mental illness might occur.  In part two we will propose some theoretical cases to see how the referenced tips in part one might be used. In the case of a debilitating disease Suzanne’s could be counted on to be punctual, perform consistently, and troubleshoot incidents. When she noticed odd sensations in her hands and disturbances in her vision that would come and go, she shook it off. She didn’t mention it to her boss. However, profound fatigue finally led her to visit a physician, and she received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Since her job required standing as well as manual dexterity, she wondered how she could keep working. Suzanne explained her condition to her supervisor, as well as her doctor’s recommendation for physical and occupational therapy. Her boss, familiar with the ADA and the FMLA, discussed some acceptable modifications—providing a seat and magnifying floor task light—which allowed her to work full-time for a while longer. Informing her boss was a good decision. Some employers may make false assumptions and take action based on observations rather than be mindful and attempt to find the root cause of changing behavior. In the case of mental illness Many kinds of mental illness can appear in employees: addiction, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or depression. Employers must cope with this legally and appropriately which means they must be familiar with the ADA, FMLA, and HIPAA laws. These laws classify mental illness conditions and require reasonable accommodations such as for those with physical illness. Brad’s bipolar disorder didn’t show up until he’d been with his employer past the new employee probationary period; subsequently, he “blew up” at minor feedback from his boss. After obtaining Brad’s written authorization, the supervisor spoke to Brad’s physician who offered suggestions about approaching Brad with criticism. The employer agreed to do what was needed as long as it did not exceed what was within the company’s policy regarding a medical condition in relation to work. Important to note Working with employees who suffer personal crises, or mental or physical illness can be quite challenging. It is critical to document all conversations and inquiries factually. In most cases, an employer has a duty to accommodate the employee. A company policy and knowledge of pertaining laws should be the go-to resources. As in part one, following the “Golden Rule” is always a good idea. Others see the precedent and the manager’s leadership as a guide of how to treat others. And employees quite often mirror what they have seen. Talk to MPS Technical about your employment needs. We specialize in finding qualified talent for precision manufacturing companies, but we also have listened to and understand the people we offer as candidates to provide you a great match with seamless onboarding. We have a convenient location to serve you. Let’s talk today.