Can my employer legally overule a doctor’s orders even though I have an actual clinical diagnosis and precription regarding the issue?

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Can my employer legally overule a doctor’s orders even though I have an actual clinical diagnosis and precription regarding the issue?

I am a crane operator at a large outside construction facility that builds offshore vessels. Just like every other construction job we are required to wear eye protection at all times. We were required to go to a eye physician and have a eye exam and written prescription from the doctor to put on file if we wore dark tinted safety glasses. The employer is now saying trying to change the rule they made before and say no one can wear dark tinted safety glasses now prescription or not. Not conforming and wearing clear safety glasses is suppose to result in suspension then termination.

Asked on November 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It's  not that the employer is "overruling" the doctor's orders--it's that the doctor does not actually have authority over the employer; a doctor cannot make policy or decisions for a company unless he happens to be an owner, executive, etc. of that company.

That said, an employer is obligated to make "reasonable accomodations" for an employee with a disability, such as a vision coondition. However, at the same time, the employee must be able to safely do all aspects of the job, even with reasonable accomodations. So if it would be safe to wear the dark tinted safety glasses and you have a medical condition requiring them, then your employer should have to let you do this--and if they don't, you may have a legal claim for disability-based discrimination. (You could contact your state's equal/civil rights agency, or speak with an employment law attorney about a possible lawsuit.)

However, if the reason for the policy change is that the employer discovered that it was unsafe to use the tinted glasses, or their insurer said they could not get coverage if employees wore other than clear safety glasses, or regulations governing your industry now require clear glasses, then the employer does not have to let you wear them, regardless of your condition or prescription. An employer is not obligated to incur a safety or liabilty risk, to give up insurance coverage, or to violate the law to accomodate an employee. So if there is a safety, legal, or insurance reason behind the policy change, the employer can most likely deny you the right to use the tinted glasses, even if that means you can't then do your job and would be terminated.


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