Legal Matters - Human Rights
I need to take time off work or require changes in my workplace because of my disability. What information can my employer ask me for?
When an employee requests accommodation in the workplace, which may include changes to workplace, reduced working hours, or a medical leave of absence, employers are entitled to ask for some information and employees have an obligation to provide it. Questions should be limited to information that is required to determine the limitations or needs of the employee so that the employer can look to see what can be changed in the workplace to allow the employee to continue working productively. Questions unrelated to needs or workplace limitations are generally inappropriate.
In most cases, employers are not permitted to request an employee’s “medical file”, ask for “general” medical information, or ask what the disability is. Questions that will reveal the employee’s diagnosis should be avoided. Ideally, the employer will tell the employee what information is needed and, more importantly, why that information is needed. Employers should be sensitive when asking for information and ensure that the employee’s dignity and privacy is maintained to the extent possible. Employers should generally avoid asking for a second medical opinion, independent medical examination or opinion from a specialist unless that information is absolutely necessary to provide accommodation.
Employers who fail to properly work with an employee in the accommodation process may find themselves in violation of Ontario’s human rights legislation and responsible for significant damages.