Say you had a medical issue or injury, work-related or not. At some point, you may have reached out to your employer about working with some restrictions. Your supervisor might believe that certain restrictions will prevent you from performing the job as needed, emails HR and indicates an inability to accommodate the restrictions. It is then communicated to you that the you cannot work until you are fully recoverd, or 100% healed. This position by the employer would be a failure to engage in the interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations for your disability.
So, what should happen if you reach out to your employer to return to work with reasonable restrictions? Your manager, supervisor and/or HR personnel should clarify the scope of those restrictions with you, if necessary. If a job description exists for your position, you and the employer can review those duties and see what is listed as an essential function of the job, understand how others may have been accommodated in similar situations, and evaluate whether the you can or cannot perform the essential functions of the job with any accommodation.
For example, say you are a manager at a bank and you recently hurt your right knee while playing football over the weekend. Your doctor says you can return to work, but you are not 100% healed. He might also say you need a 5-minute break every hour to stretch your knees. If this manager returns to work with the work restriction of a 5-minute break to walk around the office, her employer will have to go through the interactive process and accommodate the request if walking around for 5 minutes will not interfere with the manager’s ability to perform the essential duties of her job. The manager’s employer could not say, no, come back when you are 100% better.
If your employer says you cannot return to work until you are “100% healed” or similar language, this is a red flag, especially if your employer fails to accommodate and/or engage in any interactive process to understand your restrictions.