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Was it okay for my manager to not follow health-related recommendations about my work schedule from my doctors to the hospital’s disability office?

Question:

Dear Nancy,

I am a floor nurse with generalized anxiety disorder. I take Klonopin to control this. However, sometimes the unit is a little overwhelming due to my above disorder. I accepted this job at a local hospital and was progressing well, per preceptor reports to me and the nurse educator. As I moved through orientation and was ready to come off, my nurse manager asked how he could be supportive of me. I stated that it would help if I wasn’t scheduled five eight-hour days in a row due to stress related issues. He said I needed a physician’s note to support my request. I gave him a note from my psychologist via the equal employment opportunities officer.

After that meeting he stated he still would schedule me five days in a row through the rest of orientation. I also stated I needed to stay home one day to do a 24-hour urine cortisol test as my endocrinologist reported blood levels were too high and this needed to be investigated. He ignored me and never addressed it. He then started to pick on little things like not communicating effectively with other nurses and performing under the level of nursing for which I had been hired. I don’t know where he got these ideas from as my preceptors were telling him through the nurse educator that I was an asset to the unit. After continuing to talk to my manager about this reasonable accommodation, which he kept ignoring, I resigned. My question is, was it okay for my manager to not follow both my psychologists and endocrinologist recommendation once the paperwork was submitted to the disability office of the hospital? I don’t want to sue. I just feel largely misunderstood and discriminated due to
my condition.

Mary Carol

Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Mary Carol,

First of all, it is disconcerting this kind of situation occurs when one brings up the need for a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Based on what you have stated in your question, it does not sound like it was handled appropriately. One problem might have been you produced a letter from your psychologist and not a physician, which might account for some of the conduct by your nurse manager. The other problem may be you were still in orientation when this request was made, but that is something only an attorney with whom you consult with can evaluate.

Be that as it may, your compliance office in the facility should have been more helpful and directed you to the problem, if there was one, with the non-physician letter. Or, your nurse manager could have informed you the letter you submitted was helpful, but one from a physician also was needed.

Your resignation could be characterized as a constructive discharge. In other words, continuing to make you work a schedule you asked to be changed slightly and not allowing you time to do your endocrinology sample made things so difficult and stressful for you that you resigned. However, if your resignation meets the test for a constructive discharge in your state, it is seen as a termination and not a resignation, which is to your advantage.

The other issue is, of course, the accommodation you asked for. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the refusal to do so may be a violation of the act. Although you said you did not want to sue, you should consult with a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who works with employees in employment discrimination. Getting a consultation about the ADA and the possibility of a constructive discharge as soon as possible is a good idea, as there are time limits one must meet if one files a complaint for a violation under the act with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in court. The same is true for a civil case alleging constructive discharge. After talking with the attorney, you might view this situation differently.

Cordially,
Nancy

By | 2014-12-05T00:00:00-05:00 December 5th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|0 Comments

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