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MA Medical Leave / WC / Termination

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  • MA Medical Leave / WC / Termination

    I am writing on behalf of my father. He is employed by a privately-held company in MA and was sent to the physician by his employer through WC due to back pain. It was not an "incident" that occured - but a result of the responsibilities he is required to fulfill as part of his job.

    During the initial visit, the doctor suggested that he "take it easy" but did not prescribe medication or diagnose a specific injury. He went to see the same doctor 2 weeks later -- both for back pain and to request an anti-depressant due to work-related stress. The doctor prescribed him Paxil and gave him a note for "medical leave" for 3 weeks. The note did not indicate a reason for the medical leave. His employer stated that he would be granted the leave and would need to use his accrued sick time for the leave.

    Now the concern is that he is to return to work but will not be able to perform the same responsibilities due to the back problem. His doctor has given him a note to return to work with "light duty" but his concern is whether or not he can be fired for his inability to perform the duties necessary to fulfill his job.

    Two questions:
    1. Can he be fired for inability to perform expected duties?
    2. Should/could he have filed for the leave under WC - if for nothing else, but to establish history?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance.

  • #2
    1. Yes. Employers are not obligated by law to provide light duty. If the claim is WC, it is a good idea and he may be able to get TTD (salary replacement) while out of work and disabled. If his back condition reaches the level of a true disability under ADA (meaning it significantly impacts his ability to perform taks in his everyday life, not just those at his job and is long term/permanent) there may be some issues there. He needs to approach his employer to see if there is a reasonable accommodation that would allow him to do his job. Indefinite light duty is not considered reasonable, but transfer to a vacant position within his restrictions may be.

    2. If the reason he was out was due to a work injury then he should have filed it under WC. If it was due to other reasons, then it would just be rejected if it did. I can't tell you whether back pain and depression will be found to be WC or not absent a specific incident that caused it. It is very state and situation specific.

    Some states recognize non-specific work related conditions, others do not. Some, like my state, can't make up their mind whether they do or they don't, so it really is a gray area. If you father suspects it is related, it can't hurt to file it. Worst case scenario, it gets rejected.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


    • #3
      Thank You - Follow-Up Question

      Thanks for your response and I apologize if this seems like a ridiculous questions but:

      Can he still file for WC even though his 3-week leave ends today?
      How does he go about it, how long does it take and most importantly - will his medical records be released to his employer (including the antidepressant prescription?)


      • #4
        Yes, he can still file. It takes as long as it takes to get the medicals and assess whether it is related or not. In straightforward cases it may takes just a few days. In those that are less black and white, well, it takes longer.

        Yes, the medical reports from any visit that is considered related would go to his employer. If other things are discussed in those reports, his employer would have access to them as well. Under ADA they could not use a diagnosis of depression against him. As he is alledging it is stress related from work, yes, it could very well be part of the claim.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


        The forum is intended for informational use only and should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for legal advice. The information contained on are opinions and suggestions of members and is not a representation of the opinions of does not warrant or vouch for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any postings or the qualifications of any person responding. Please consult a legal expert or seek the services of an attorney in your area for more accuracy on your specific situation.