The need to go out on disability leave is based on one’s inability to perform the duties of their occupation, not on the choice to step away from working. If you obtained disability coverage through your employer, the need to stop working due to a sickness or injury must occur while you are still employed. In our practice, we have noticed a particular “disconnect” between the disabled person’s intention to convey their need to stop working and the impact their choice of words has on the disability assessment.
Accepting that you are disabled can be very difficult and uncomfortable. This is especially true for our skilled and/or high-level professional clients such as doctors, lawyers, and corporate executives. It often feels easier to tell patients, clients, and employees that you are “retiring”, rather than admit you can no longer perform the job and need to step away. Many of our clients wonder, does it really matter what word is used? As recently seen in Cameron v. Sun Life Assur. Co. of Can., the answer is a resounding yes. 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200078 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2022).
In Cameron, the plaintiff was a radiology administrator who became disabled by a cardiac condition. He returned to work for a short period time, then determined that he would need to stop permanently due to the stressful nature of his job, which was impacting his health. Instead of returning to his doctor to address his ongoing symptoms, he “retired” from work. Months later, his condition continued to progress and manifest symptoms supporting his decision to stop working.