An arbitrator recently upheld an employer’s practice of requesting employees to visit a medical clinic after the employees ask to go home due to illness.
The employer would first request an employee to see an on-site first aid attendant if it doubted that the employee need to go home because of illness. If, after consulting with the first aid attendant, the employer was still in doubt, it would then ask the employee to visit the nearest walk-in medical clinic, so that it could make a final decision about whether to excuse the employee.
The union filed a policy grievance alleging that the employer’s practice of requesting employees to attend a walk-in clinic violated the collective agreement. The arbitrator found that the employer’s policy was reasonable and, further, that the employer could send an employee to the hospital if a medical clinic was not open or where it was otherwise appropriate.
Employers contemplating similar policies should take care that implementation would not violate the particular provisions of their own collective agreement. Employers must also recognize that an employee cannot be forced to undergo a medical examination. However, if an employee does refuse to have a medical examination, the employer may be justified, if supported by other objective evidence and the provisions of the collective agreement, in withholding pay for the absence or disciplining the employee.