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Can Employers Ask for Your Medical Information?

For employees diagnosed with cancer, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations can be anything that can help an employee continue to do their job, return to work, or take time off of work.

But if an employee asks for an accommodation, an employer may ask for medical information to decide if the employee is eligible. This might concern employees who prefer to keep their medical information private.

Before talking to an employer, it is helpful to be prepared so you can communicate effectively and honestly. Here are some tips to navigate this process.

Why should I provide medical information?

Under the ADA, when an impairment is not apparent, employers have a right to request medical information that verifies both the impairment and the need for accommodation.

If an employee’s disability and need for accommodation are not obvious to an employer, and if that individual fails to provide the medical documentation necessary, then the employer may deny the accommodation.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers an example of an employer’s medical inquiry form in the resource “Medical Inquiry in Response to an Accommodation Request.”

What is medical information?

Medical information is documentation provided by a health care professional who cares for the employee. The medical information certifies the need for the accommodation by describing the employee’s impairment, and how it impacts the employee’s ability to do their job, to show why an accommodation would be useful.

An employer is not entitled to an employee’s complete medical records.

For more information on medical information requests, JAN provides guidance for health care professionals.

Who can provide medical documentation?

A doctor is not the only person who can provide medical documentation. Medical documentation can come from a professional who has experience with the patient’s medical condition and direct knowledge of the patient’s impairment.

Professionals could include psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, and other licensed health professionals.

How much time do I have to submit medical verification?

There is no specific time frame to submit medical records under the ADA. But the accommodation process is an interactive conversation between employer and employee, and it can be helpful to talk about a timeline.

JAN offers practical suggestions for handling delays in receiving medical documentation in the resource “Avoiding ‘The Waiting Place’ After Requesting Medical Information.”

What if my accommodation request is closed or denied because I didn’t provide medical information?

If an accommodation request is denied, an employee may ask again. It is important to talk with your health care professional and your employer to avoid unnecessary delays.

JAN provides more advice about accommodation denials in the resource “Your Accommodation Request was Denied. Now What?

For more information on accommodations, visit Triage Cancer’s work and cancer resources.

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through eventsmaterials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis.

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