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Employer is Refusing to Follow Orders From My Doctor

by Brian

I was diagnosed with a heart issue called tachycardia.

It causes me to have dizziness, faintness and severe light headiness.

I am employed by a small company in Virginia where we are always setting up lane closures, flagging traffic while in non stop heavy traffic. I have been there for 5 years now.

My family doctor and my cardiologist both have written notes to my employer stating that I am not allowed to work in or around traffic anymore.

My employer followed these orders and kept me doing shop duties for a couple days. but then it was back to the streets closing off roads and working in the busiest streets in our city.

When they send me out on a job that violates the order, I often remind them that I am not allowed to be doing this. I am simply ignored. They simply do not care.

I am afraid I am going to have an episode where I get dizzy, or possibly hit by a car and injured, or even killed.

I work for a small company with about 9 employees. I am wanting to quit before I get myself seriously injured or even killed, but afraid I will not be allowed to collect unemployment.

I have made many recordings on my cell phone of me working in these conditions since my doctors have said not to.

This is the type of company that will blackmail me if I upset them. I have seen this done to others here many times.

I can not afford to quit because I have 4 great daughters and a perfect wife, who I support and with no income coming in, it will cost us everything.

I even work more in traffic jobs now than I did before I was not allowed to do so. If I quit because of this, will I still be able to collect unemployment benefits?

What are the proper steps? What do I do?

I know that they can not fire me for this if i refuse to go into traffic, but they are the type that will fire me for being one second late one day or any other reason. Very cruel and cold hearted company. Thanks

Chris's Answer

Hi Brian,

So are you.

Relative to your condition and the advice from a cardiologist, if it was provided to your employer as a "document", it weights the basic argument you requested a work accommodation that your employer is ignoring, therefore forcing you into making, or not, an objective decision to quit for the sake of your own health concerns.

I would encourage you to make any decision, an objective choice based upon your own
fear of what could potentially happen to you while doing the job with conditions you've been advised by your physicians, not to do and to be able to prove that you did request accommodation and that your employer is ignoring it.

You can't do this, until you make a stand for yourself. I'd like to ask you if you're concerned about your family losing everything if you don't get unemployment benefits from the VEC, where you think your perfect wife and daughters will be if you do end up dead because you feared you'd be fired, or blackmailed (? I don't know what you mean by this).

As for the unemployment benefits in Virginia, the issue is whether you would have good cause to voluntarily quit for health reasons, at the moment you quit, or stand your ground and refuse to work in traffic and end up getting fired. But then getting fired would of course shift the burden to the employer to prove misconduct .. which generally should require warnings about something considered misconduct, but it's still your concern, because when fired, you need to know how to rebut, instead of proving the burden related to being the moving party to end the job.

So, to help you answer your question for yourself, I would first check the USDOL's non-monetary chartbook to see how Virginia UI law stands generally, on quitting for your own health reasons. It's table 5-2 and the last column on the right and footnote 6 states,

"VA - if advised by
doctor to quit for medical reasons or advised to restrict work activities and employer cannot or will not accommodate"

Then, to be sure, the thing most people don't get, is they also should check precedent decisions to get some clue about how even if the reason is good cause, they still must prove it .. as in having evidence it was the employer who ignored the advice of an employee's physician.

Precedent decision manuals, when made available by a state are linked to along with the UI laws here.

And one more thing Brian. You mentioned working on busy roads, and lots of roadwork is funded by federal grants and contractors who receive that sort of money and may have only a small number of employees, such as yours, may actually still need to be compliant with special rules from the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program)

I'm not an expert on being compliant with the OFCCP, but I know enough, to know when I would suggest checking first on other things to weight the argument for benefits, before someone becomes unemployed, if I were to actually coach on an individual basis.

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