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What if My Employee Cannot Physically Perform Their Job?

Your employees are essential to a successful business. Without good workers, your company may not be able to function, let alone make money. As an employer, you have some obligations and must follow some rules in regard to your employees. One of the issues that may arise from time to time happens when an employee becomes unable to perform their job. You need to know how to handle this type of situation and what you can and should do if the problem occurs.

Wisconsin is an At-Will Employment State

Wisconsin is a state that follows the doctrine of at-will employment. In general, employment-at-will means that neither the employer nor the employee has an obligation to remain employed. Once hired, an employer may terminate an employee at any time and without cause. The employee may leave employment at any time. The law applies to employees without contracts. If the employee has a contract, the terms of the document take effect. When an employer fires an employee they must take care not to improperly do so.

Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act is federal legislation in place to protect people with disabilities in the workplace. The ADA has some requirements regarding employees who are unable to perform their job duties. The law states that an employer must provide reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability unless it causes undue hardship to the employer. An employer must therefore prove that they encountered a hardship if they want to properly terminate the employee. However, a disability does not excuse an employee from performing essential job tasks.

Managing an Employee With Physical Limitations

It is important to properly manage an employee who is no longer able to physically perform their job. When the employee informs you of their physical limitation, you will want to request a doctor’s report or note indicating the details of the limitations. Determine whether the limitations are permanent or temporary. Consider the options that are available. For example, you may have other jobs that the employee may be able to perform instead. Another alternative is to make changes to the employee’s current job description and duties. These would be reasonable accommodations for an employee with physical limitations.

Can I Terminate an Employee?

An employee without a contract is an employee at will, and as an employer, you would be able to terminate an employee as long as you do so legally. If the employee now has physical limitations, you must be able to show that it would cause hardship for your company to provide accommodations for the employee. For example, if an employee is a dock worker and can no longer lift heavy items, it may not be possible for you to provide a different job to the worker. As an employer, you must ensure that you follow the law.

If you fail to follow the law, an employee might be able to file a wrongful termination claim. Prevent any potential problems by consulting with an employment law attorney. Contact our law firm today at (608) 784-8310 or online for a consultation.

Published January 29, 2024
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