The Ontario Human Rights Commission has clarified the type and scope of medical information that needs to be provided when a disability-related accommodation request is made. The Commission noticed that many individuals were unable to receive appropriate accommodations due to ambiguous medical notes. Employers had a hard time determining the appropriate accommodations. There were also cases where individuals were unable to receive accommodations because employers requested personal medical information that went beyond what the accommodation process requires.
The goal of accommodation is to ensure all individuals who are able to work can do so. The employer’s duty is to ensure all individuals who are otherwise fit to work are not unfairly excluded where working conditions can be adjusted without undue hardship. The Human Rights Code only considers the following when assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship:
- outside sources of funding, if any, or
- health and safety requirements, if any.
The new guidance clarifies that employers must limit requests for information, such as the cause of the disability, diagnosis, or treatment. Employers only need enough information to make the accommodation and should avoid knowing confidential medical information, unless it is clearly related to the accommodation being sought. The guidance also clarifies that all documentation stating the need for an accommodation should only be available to the person who needs to be aware of the information, such as a supervisor. All documents with the employee’s medical information must be kept separately from files associated with their use of a service. Individuals seeking an accommodation should expect to provide the following information:
- that the person has a disability;
- the limitations or needs associated with the disability;
- whether the person can perform the essential duties or requirements of the job with or without accommodation;
- the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed to allow the person to fulfill the essential duties of requirements of the job; and
- regular updates about when the person expects to come back to work, if they are on leave.
Employers are advised to review this new policy to take the necessary steps in providing the requested accommodations.