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Can I Refuse My Job Access To Medical Records During ADA Accommodation Process?

by | Oct 7, 2022 | Disability Discrimination, Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Federal Law Update |

What does the ADA do?

Workplace Disability Lawyer Answer: As frequent readers of our blog now know, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to provide qualified employees or applicants with reasonable accommodation unless to do so would cause undue hardship. (Best Law Read: ADA: What’s An Essential Job Function?; ADA: Who is A Qualified Individual?; What’s A Direct Threat Defense Under The ADA?). Basically, under the ADA, an accommodation can be any change in either the physical work environment or procedurally in the manner activities or duties are typically carried out so that a disables individual receives equal employment opportunities. Additionally, the ADA prevents employers from discriminating against employees with actual or perceived disabilities, or against employees with a record of a disability in making employment decisions.

How is what my accommodation will be decided on?

Best Disability Accommodation At Work Attorney Answer: The ADA requires the employer and the employee to engage in an interactive process that requires the employee to share information related to that employee’s disability and requested needs, while the employer must consider the reasonableness of different accommodations, if any, that are available. (Best Law Read: Interactive Process: It Takes Two To Tango). At the conclusion of this process, the employer can select any reasonable accommodation that meets the needs of the employee. (Best Law Read: Can I Pick The ADA Accommodation I Want?; Disability Discrimination: A Simple Illustration of A Reasonable Accommodation). Therefore, the accommodation offered by the employer “does not have to be the ‘best’ accommodation possible,” but only needs to satisfy the employee’s needs. 29 C.F.R. Pt. 1630, App., § 1630.9. The employer “has the ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations” and may select an “easier” or “less expensive” accommodation. Id.

Can my job require me to provide medical records relating to my disability in order to get a workplace accommodation?

Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer Answer: For the most part, yes. However, the ADA does not allow employers unlimited access to medical records; and only allow employers to obtain reasonable documentation, which documentation that is needed to establish that an employee or applicant has a disability which necessitates a reasonable accommodation. Therefore, in most circumstances, employers are not permitted to demand an employee’s complete medical records because such broad records will certainly hold medical information wholly unrelated to the disability at issue and request for an accommodation. Depending on the disability at issue, employers may require medical records from doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses-practitioners, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals. To get the records, employers can require the employee to sign a limited medical release allowing the employer to obtain medical records directly from the medical provider and/or have the medical provider answer a list of specific questions posed by the employer. (Best Law Read: When Can Employers Ask For Medical Records?; Can I Be Asked Medical Questions During A Job Interview?).

Very importantly, once an employer acquires an employee’s medical records and/or information, it must keep that information confidential – including keeping separate from the employee’s normal HR file. (Best Law Read: Can My Employer Share My Medical Information?; Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Can My Boss Share My Confidential Medical Information?).

What happens if I refuse to give my boss access to my medical records?

Best Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: You will lose your right to an accommodation. Recently, in this issue was addressed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Conlan v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 21-35517, 2022 WL 3700108, at *1 (9th Cir. Aug. 26, 2022). In that case, Nicholas Conlan sued his former employer, Costco, for failing to accommodate his asserted disability by not permitting him the workplace accommodation of bringing his service dog with him to work. After Conlan refused to sign a medical authorization for the employer to get his medical records, Costco was left with only a simple return to work form from his doctor, which released him to return to work without restrictions.

Based on that fact, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held: “A doctor’s release to work without restrictions ends the employer’s duty to engage in further interactive process.” Id. at *1 (internal quote omitted).

Undeterred, Conlan further argued that his employer failed its burden to establish that permitting his service dog would cause Costco an undue hardship nor offered any other reasonable accommodations. The Ninth Circuit pointed out that Conlan was putting the cart before the horse: “an employer that rejects an employee’s requested accommodation must show ‘undue hardship’ or offer ‘alternative accommodations’ only if the employer was required to provide an accommodation in the first place.  Costco was not required to provide any accommodation because Conlan was cleared to work without restrictions.” Id. at * 2 (citing Garcia v. Salvation Army, 918 F.3d 997, 1010 (9th Cir. 2019)).

The moral of the story to take away from Conlan is this: employees must share information, including medical information that will allow the employer to properly evaluate and provide a reasonable accommodation. Failure to do so will likely result in an employee losing the right to an accommodation.

What should I do is my job fired me instead of giving me a disability accommodation?

Best Employee’s Rights Law Firm Answer: You need legal advice regarding the specifics of your situation and potential claims. Your best option is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?; Why Having Skilled Employment Attorneys Is Critical). Our attorneys are waiting for your call in Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.

Disclaimer:

This disability accommodation and employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this ADA page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get my job to give me an accommodation at work because I’m disabled?”, “am I entitled to disability accommodation under the ADA?”, “what should I do if I was fired for making an ADA request to HR” or “can my boss fired me for needing a disability accomodation”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.