Listen to the Employee, Not Just the Doctor, Regarding Disability of Employee

September 10, 2018

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected an employer’s assertion that the employee was not disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because she had been cleared by her doctor to return to work without restrictions, where the employee still complained of physical limitations. The employer argued that the employee was not disabled since she had been cleared to work without restrictions following her multiple knee surgeries. However, the employee had informed her employer that her knee injuries still substantially interfered with her ability to engage in a number of major life activities, including walking, standing, squatting and kneeling, which was sufficient to raise the possibility of a disability. The court noted that, “it does not follow that [the employee] did not have a disability because her doctor had cleared her to return to work without restrictions.” The employer did not request a doctor’s note to verify her condition, although it could have done so. It also failed to engage in the interactive process. We recommend employers review their ADA and return to work policies and practices to ensure compliance, and to contact SESCO if questions remain.