While on short or long term disability, is an employer allowed to force unemployment or furlough on an employee until they are medically approved to return to work?

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While on short or long term disability, is an employer allowed to force unemployment or furlough on an employee until they are medically approved to return to work?

Asked on October 18, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The employer should not be forcing unemployment or furlough on the employee.  The employer has to reasonably accommodate the employee's medical restrictions.  Reasonable accommodation could include light duty, if applicable.  Whether or not the employer is able to reasonably accommodate the employee will be determined by the employee's job duties as set forth in the job description.  Are the medical restrictions such, that light duty would be applicable to perform the job duties?  Are the medical restrictions of such a nature that accommodation is feasible?  Is there a comparable job the employee could perform for the employer within the constraints of the medical restrictions?  Reasonable accommodation would include a comparable position, comparable pay and if at another location, the location should be within a reasonable distance.  For example, if the company had an office in another part of the country, sending the employee there would NOT be a reasonable accommodation.

If the employer is unable to reasonably accommodate the employee, the employee might want to consider a disability retirement.  If eligible for a disability retirement, the employee's compensation would be based on an average of his or her pay during the last few years.  If the employee wants to file for a disability retirement, the human resources office of the employer will have the necessary forms for the initial application and will explain the procedures.  If the disability retirement is denied, that can be challenged in court.


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