Employee's Vision Issues are Affecting Job Performance
Q: An employee recently told the company that he has vision issues that might be affecting his job performance; he’s going for more testing. The office manager told him to bring her a diagnosis and treatment plan. This is an older employee, and his vision is probably just age-related. What should we do?
A: According to Towers Watson’s 2013 Global Benefit Attitudes Survey, only 25% of the work force plans on retiring before 65, and half expect to retire after 65. One in three employees either does not expect to retire until after 70 or doesn’t plan to retire at all. An aging workforce can present challenges to managers and HR professionals. The MEA Expert Hotline gets several calls a year from MEA Members asking for guidance involving age-related and disability-related issues. The primary concern is to ensure you ask only questions you are permitted to ask, and that you ask the right questions.
First, do not ask for a diagnosis. You can, however, request that the employee obtain a medical certification from the employee’s health care professional, which addresses how his particular condition affects his ability to perform the essential functions of the job. To help the doctor make that assessment, you will want to include a copy of the employee’s job description with the medical certification request. Ensure that the job description is up-to-date, and includes information that clearly describes the essential functions of the job. Give the employee a copy of his job description, and a medical certification form, and ask him to take it to his doctor. You may also want to provide the employee with a medical information release form that the employee signs and gives to his health care provider, authorizing his health care provider to release this information to the company. These forms can be obtained by calling MEA’s Expert Hotline.
An employee need not explicitly request an accommodation to trigger an employers’ duties under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) with respect to accommodations. You are required to conduct “interactive dialogue” with the employee to determine what is going on. Since the employee came to you and told you that he had this problem, you seem to have enough information to trigger your obligations to speak to him. Engaging in “interactive dialogue” can be challenging, and a call to the Expert Hotline might be in order before you speak to the employee. Generally, it’s helpful to find out from the employee exactly what types of difficulties he’s encountering, when he noticed it, and how is it affecting his ability to do his job.
MEA’s goal is to provide current, detailed and useful information to EXPERT HOTLINE callers, but our responses do not constitute legal advice about what you should or should not do in a particular situation. You should always consult legal counsel, in the context of a confidential attorney-client relationship, before taking any action that could have legal implications for you or your business. If legal services are needed, MEA members are entitled to a discounted fee arrangement with the Powell Trachtman law firm, which serves as MEA’s general counsel. For more information, contact Michael G. Trachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org.