From the desk of Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., CLMS, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist
One of the more common questions JAN receives is, “Under the ADA, who is qualified to provide medical information when an accommodation is requested?”The ADA does not specifically require that medical information be provided by a licensed medical doctor (MD) to establish the existence of an ADA-qualifying disability and need for accommodation. Employers can expect that the information necessary to determine coverage under the law be provided by an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional who is familiar with the individual's impairment and functional limitations. Of course, it makes sense that the appropriate professional should have expertise in the disability involved and/or direct knowledge of the individual with the disability. Medical information should come from a credible and reliable source.
In the agency’s guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notes that appropriate professionals who can provide medical information can include, but are not limited to, medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals. Keep in-mind, this is not an exhaustive list of health care professionals. Information can also come from certified physician assistants, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, and other health care providers who are knowledgeable and have expertise in the disability involved. For more information, see the EEOC’s guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA, question 6.
It can be required that medical documentation sufficiently substantiate that the individual has a disability, defines his or her limitations, and makes clear why the reasonable accommodation being requested is needed. Employers who request medical documentation for ADA purposes should not ask for more detailed information than is absolutely necessary to determine eligibility to receive accommodation. EEOC explains that sufficient medical documentation describes the nature, severity, and duration of the impairment, the activity or activities that the impairment limits, the extent to which the impairment limits the employee's ability to perform the activity or activities, and also substantiates why the requested reasonable accommodation is needed. For more information, see EEOC’s guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the ADA, question 10.
When insufficient medical documentation is received in response to an employer's initial request, the employer should notify the individual, preferably in writing, explain why the documentation is insufficient, and allow the individual an opportunity to provide the missing information in a timely manner. The amount of time the individual has to provide sufficient information is up to the employer’s discretion, but anywhere from five to ten business days is common. Medical documentation is insufficient under the ADA if it does not specify the existence of a disability and explain the need for reasonable accommodation. EEOC indicates that medical documentation may also be insufficient if the health care professional does not have the expertise to offer an opinion about the employee's medical condition and limitations; the information does not specify the individual’s functional limitations; or, factors indicate that the information provided is not credible or is fraudulent. For more information, see EEOC’s guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the ADA, question 11.
JAN offers many resources related to medical inquiries and the ADA. For more information about requesting medical information, please contact JAN to speak with a Consultant, or see JAN’s A to Z By Topic: Medical Exams and Inquiries.