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Employment Matters

What Can an Employer Request from an Employee for Disability-Related Accommodation Requests?

When an employee makes a disability-related request for accommodation, the employer has a legal duty to accommodate the request up to the point of undue hardship. However, problems can arise when an employee provides medical documentation too ambiguous to support the request, or when an employer requests more medical information than is required to determine the appropriate accommodation.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently released a policy position statement which sheds some light on what medical information should be provided to support an accommodation request.

The Type and Scope of Medical Information:

The policy position, as well as section 8.7 of the OHRC’s Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability, address the type and scope of medical information that an employee should provide when requesting accommodation. This information should include:

– that the person has a disability

– the limitations or needs associated with the disability

– whether the person can perform the essential duties or requirements of the job, with or without accommodation

– the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed to allow the person to fulfill the essential duties or requirements of the job

– regular updates about when the person expects to come back to work, if they are on leave

Generally, the accommodation provider is not entitled to know a person’s confidential medical information, including the cause of the disability, diagnosis, symptoms or treatment, unless these clearly relate to the accommodation sought, or the person’s needs are complex, challenging or unclear and more information is needed.

Respecting the Employee’s Privacy and Dignity: Focus on the Functional Limitations, Not the Diagnosis

Employers should be careful to provide accommodation in a way that respects the dignity and privacy of persons with disabilities. This means that:

– When requesting medical information, the focus should always be on the functional limitations associated with the disability, rather than a person’s diagnosis.

– Overboard requests for private medical information such as diagnostic information, coupled with stigma against disabilities, can mean that requests for diagnostic information pose a barrier to requests for accommodation.

– Where an organization requires more information about a person’s disability, the information requested must be the least intrusive of the person’s privacy, while still providing sufficient information to make an informed decision about accommodation.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post on when an employer can request an Independent Medical Examination from an employee who has requested accommodation for a disability.