Reasonable Accommodation-Medical Documentation
May an employer ask an individual for documentation when the individual requests reasonable accommodation?
Yes. When the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability and functional limitations. The employer is entitled to know that the individual has a covered disability for which she needs a reasonable accommodation.
Reasonable documentation means that the employer may require only the documentation that is needed to establish that a person has an ADA disability, and that the disability requires a reasonable accommodation. Thus, an employer, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation, cannot ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining the existence of a disability and the necessity for an accommodation.
This means that in most situations an employer cannot request a person's complete medical records because they are likely to contain information unrelated to the disability at issue and the need for accommodation. If an individual has more than one disability, an employer can request information pertaining only to the disability that requires a reasonable accommodation.
An employer may require that the documentation about the disability and the functional limitations come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. The appropriate professional in any particular situation will depend on the disability and the type of functional limitation it imposes. Appropriate professionals include, but are not limited to, doctors (including psychiatrists), psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals.
When requesting documentation, employers should specify what types of information they are seeking regarding the disability, its functional limitations, and the need for reasonable accommodation. The individual can be asked to sign a limited release allowing the employer to submit a list of specific questions to the health care or vocational professional.