I have an employee who has developed Multiple Sclerosis (MS). What can I do if the employee can no longer perform certain physical job duties?
This is an excellent example of the need for written job descriptions. Your job description will include a complete listing of all essential job duties and concrete estimates of time devoted to each duty. When drafting standards to define job duties, use concrete — not abstract — terms. Not: “lift heavy boxes” or “good keyboarding skills.” Instead: “lift 50 pound boxes up to 20 times a day to waist level” or “enter a minimum of 55 records per hour.”
At some point you may notice an employee can’t perform, or has difficulty performing, certain job duties. Visit with the employee. Explain that you have noticed he or she has difficulty performing work-related job duties. Ask the person to have a physical exam by a doctor to verify his or her fitness for work. Have the exam done by the employee’s physician, a company physician or by an uninvolved doctor mutually selected by you and the employee.
Mail a written job description to the doctor before the exam. If necessary, in an addendum to the description, thoroughly explain the physical requirements needed to perform job duties. Ask the doctor to provide you, after the exam, with a written analysis of the employee’s physical capacity to perform the job. Include a form signed by the employee, authorizing the doctor to share with you only results of the examination which are essential for you to determine the employee’s ability to perform the necessary specified job duties.
In the future, you may ask the person to undergo regularly scheduled physical examinations for the purpose of verifying his or her continued fitness for duty. There may come a point when he or she can no longer perform required job duties, even with reasonable accommodations. You may have cause for termination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, and some state laws may require employers to make reasonable efforts and investments to modify a disabled employee’s job or work conditions so that the disabled person can perform the work.
It’s important to make written job descriptions available to all employees. They help employees know what is expected of them. They also help you evaluate an employee’s performance.