In many situations involving disability, the employer may request medical information to assess what suitable accommodation measures are required. In other situations, medical information is unnecessary since the accommodation may be obvious.
In cases where medical information is necessary to support a request for accommodation, here are some important points to remember:
Medical information that must be provided should only include what is necessary for accommodation in the workplace, i.e. the worker’s limitations and restrictions. The worker only has to disclose medical information that is relevant to the disability being accommodated and does not have to provide access to his/her entire medical file. Diagnosis is not required in virtually all cases.
The first (and best) source of medical information is the worker’s own treating medical practitioner, who best knows and understands the worker’s health. When the employer needs medical information in order to accommodate an employee, the employee should submit a medical certificate from his/her medical practitioner (their family doctor or specialist if necessary). An employer may request more information if there is some issue or problem with the medical information (e.g. insufficient information, contradictions in the information provided, or the need for a more specialized assessment). First, clarification should be sought from the worker’s medical practitioner. If a specialist is needed, the employee can go to a specialist of his or her choosing. In some cases, an independent medical exam may be reasonable. An independent medical exam is one where all parties agree on a medical practitioner (the employee, the employer, and the union if they are involved). An independent medical exam is not an assessment by the “company doctor” (e.g. a Health Canada assessment), unless all parties agree.
An employer cannot insist or automatically require that a worker go to the employer’s own medical assessor (e.g. Health Canada) for a medical assessment unless there is specific language in the relevant collective agreement. The case law is clear that an employer cannot discipline a worker who refuses to submit to an employer’s own medical assessor.
However, note that a refusal to provide medical information or to go for a medical assessment may result in some negative consequences (i.e. remaining on leave without pay, not being accommodated back into the workplace, etc.). Therefore, it’s important to speak to your union representative about your options.
Some employers have policies that outline the requirement for medical assessment processes (i.e. the Occupational Health Evaluation Standard is applicable to federal public service workers)). However, these policies must be consistent with the human rights and privacy law.
At any time during the accommodation process, a union representative can be contacted for assistance.