Health Care attorney, Daniel Schulte, answers questions related to fears arsing from returning to work amid the coronavirus crisis. The Q&A can be found in the Journal of The Michigan Dental Association (July 2020)
Question: An employee is refusing to return to work. She tells us that she is afraid of COVID-19 infection and this fear is causing her to lose sleep and have anxiety and depression. Could her suspected history of anxiety and depression (heightened by the COVID-19 crisis) be deemed a disability under some law?
The best practice is to consider recommendations of the doctors, if any, and, to the extent possible, make the duration of leave consistent for all your employees having similar disabilities requesting leave as an accommodation. This will, to the extent possible, make any discrimination claims defensible.
In this case, since the employee did not tell you that she has a mental health condition constituting a disability (and/or provide you with documentation from her doctor describing her condition) and make a request of you for a reasonable accommodation you have no obligation to consider a leave or other request for accommodation on her behalf. Instead, you should decide whether to terminate or allow her to remain laid off.
Read the complete Q&A in the Journal of the Michigan Dental Association on page 24.
About the author:
Daniel J. Schulte has more than 25 years of experience helping clients solve tough problems and capitalize on opportunities that require a blend of business and legal expertise. His practice focuses on addressing the legal, business, licensing, and regulatory challenges of health care professionals, organizations, and facilities. Dan understands how legal issues impact business objectives and, as a result, offers his clients practical, results-oriented advice. He is a Certified Public Accountant, former managing partner and current executive committee member of the firm. Dan also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Health Care Practice Group.
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