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WC - Doctor's note, Wisconsin

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  • WC - Doctor's note, Wisconsin

    An employee of ours was required to get a second opinion by our WC insurance carrier for some numbness in her hands she has been complaining about having. She works on an assembly line. This doctor said he may have to write in his report that she shouldn't work in her position anymore if there isn't light duty available and that her employer (us) could lay her off because of it. I found it strange a doctor would say that to her, but nonetheless, he did.

    There is no indication that she cannot do her job any longer. If she was unable to do the necessary functions of her job then I would agree, but based on her performance there is no reason for us to terminate her employment. My understanding is that a simple doctor suggestion has no legal authority, is this correct? My main concern is if our WC carrier gets the report back stating that she should no longer work here, and we disregard it, what happens if the injury gets worse? What would we be liable for?

    I haven't had to handle a situation like this before so I'm curious to hear any suggestions you may have.

  • #2
    Why don't you wait until you get the report? Otherwise you are trying to play a guessing game with many variables.

    BUT-upon receipt of this report, you do need to determine if there are permanent work restrictions. Evaluate those and determine if you can reasonably accommodate. Perhaps she needs a 5 minute break every hour from the assembly line--fine, have her do her paperwork or clean the area. If you cannot accommodate the work restrictions, perhaps you can modify her job duties.

    Or you could trash the report and get a third opinion. Whatever you do, please make sure that you:

    1. Do everything with the mindset that you are going to make whatever accommodations are need to keep this employee,
    2. Keep her in the loop every step of the way. Ask her how you can help modify the job duties or if you can provide assistive devices,
    3. Document, document, document! Everything should be written up and include her signature and comments.

    You may have obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and taking a few minutes to educate yourself could protect your company from serious liabilities in the future. Read more about ADA at


    • #3
      Thank you for the response. Of course I'll wait for the report, I'm just looking a few steps in advance to be prepared.

      I understand the in's and out's of the ADA and will certainly comply with it if need be. I guess my main question is - if the doctor says she cannot work but she WANTS to work, and we see no reason for her not to work due to her performance, what consequences could happen if she continues to work and a year later her condition worsens? Like I said, I believe a doctors note has no legal authority (unless ADA or FMLA conditions are implied), but please correct me if I'm wrong.

      Thank you again
      Last edited by SCA128; 06-18-2009, 01:06 PM.


      • #4
        I wouldn't let a doctor's report stand uncorrected and allow the ee to work. I would send her back to another doctor and get an updated medical.

        In some states (like mine--CA), you could face additional penalties for allowing an employee to work beyond the scope of their work restrictions.


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