Yes. An employer may request medical information from your doctor, to determine whether you are “disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act and whether there are “reasonable accommodations” that can be made for you in the workplace. In fact, an employer form with questions for your doctor is not only lawful, but probably necessary for you to have completed and signed by your doctor, for you to later successfully argue that you were, in fact, “disabled,” and that your employer knew about it but nevertheless illegally refused you accommodation! Put simply, the ADA gives employees rights to accommodation to disability, but only to the extent employers know about the disabilities and the accommodations which might be made. The employer is not tasked with “guessing,” and the employer is entitled to verify “disability” when an employee asks for changes to the status quo.
The problem for employees is generally not that employers are asking for medical information, but the way in which they are asking. Frequently, the forms used to collect disability information are in legalese and are confusing, so that doctors fill them out inaccurately. Often a doctor will wrongly make it appear that an employee is not “disabled,” and this effectively excludes an employee from protections under the ADA. For example, a typical question for a doctor is: “does the employee suffer from an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity?” Because doctors aren’t versed in what “impairment”, “substantial limitation”, and “major life activity” mean under the ADA, many conservatively answer “no” when, for an employee to get help under the ADA, the answer should be “yes”! This is why it is a good idea to consult with an attorney, if you are confused or concerned about a medical information form.
If you have a concern related to an employer’s request for medical information, call our firm for a free consultation at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.