How much medical information is my employer entitled to?

I returned to work a month ago. I brought a return to work slip from the doctor, then had to bring a more detailed slip. Now after being back at work for a month with no performance issues, according to my supervisor, they want a full set of doctor’s notes and to talk to the doctor personally. I agreed to general info, but not to talking to my physician, as many things are personal. Can my employer terminate me on these grounds?

Posted  04-06-2011

Ann Kiernan replies:

If, when you returned to work, you asked for an accommodation for a disability, or to be assigned to light duty as part of your company’s workers compensation program, I think that the employer has a legitimate reason to ask for medical information from you to justify and support your request.

But from your question, it seems that you retuned to work with no restrictions, and have not asked for any kind of work accommodation. If that is the case, then I am baffled by the request for such detailed medical information. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers can make disability-related inquiries or ask for a medical examination of an employee only if job-related and consistent with business necessity, and when an employer “has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.” EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It does not sound like there is any business necessity here, or that your medical condition is in any way interfering with your work.

You may want to consult a local employment law attorney for a more detailed analysis of your situation and for specific advice.

Good luck.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.