ADA Anxiety

An employee claims he has anxiety attacks and needs an accommodation in order to do his job.  I asked him to bring in documentation from his doctor but he came back a few days later saying his doctor advised him not to give us the information.  I don't want to insist that he give us the info because of HIPAA, but without it we can't figure out what to do - or if we even need to do anything.  Are we in trouble if we refuse to continue with the process of trying to accommodate?  Anyone ever handled a similar situation?


  • 7 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • If the accommodation the employee needs is leave time, you may be facing both the ADA and FMLA (for a serious health condition). If it is a FMLA situation, you can ask for medication certification and can ask (and are entitled to) the doctor filling out a cert form (DOL has a great one, called a WH-380).

    If it is an ADA issue only, you are still entitled to get information regarding the accommodation required for the employee's disability (i.e., first, whether the condition actually qualifies him as disabled under the ADA (substantially limited in one or more major life activities), and second, given his disability, whether a reasonable accommodation actually exists). Under both laws, it is the employee's obligation to comply with reasonable requests for information to either substantiate the medical condition, or determine what a reasonable accommodation would be.

    Either way, you are entitled to more information, but make sure that you tread carefully and ask for only job-related information. Attaching a job description to the request for medical certification may also help the doctor understand what the employee has to do to perform his job. You may also want to get the employee to sign a release and waiver of the HIPAA info, although it really isn't the problem here. I would say try again . . . this is really a problem with the doctor, so maybe you can make him understand.

  • what type of information did you ask for?  i know that you cannot ask for complete medical records but i think you can ask for documentation to establish that the person has a disability and that the necessity of a reasonable accommodation.
  • I agree with posted comments regarding requests for medical info.  You might want to look at a request form that JAN (Job Accommodation Network) published:

    JAN's a really good source of information about the ADA and reasonable accommodation.  Good luck!


  • I also agree with the posted information and using the form provided by the DOL. It may help if your company redefines the "FMLA" policy in your employee handbook to include a blank copy of all the forms needed to from an employee to help determine if whether this will fall under FMLA or ADA. It sounds like it may qualify under both situations and if so, then you will need certification to make sure that you can track the time according the current and ever changing laws.
  • Under FMLA, we (employers) are never entitled to diagnosis or specifics (also they are sometimes listed on forms), only to the general certification information. It's different under ADA in that we do have to have some knowledge (as exchanged in the interractive process) in order to understand what is being dealt with and in order to consider viable alternatives in the form of accommodation. One cannot provide reasonable accommodation in a vaccuum. The doctor is wrong in this case.
  • I would have to disagree. The only information the physcian needs to provide is that the employee is undergoing treatment for a medical condition and what accomodations are needed. You are not "entitled" for information regarding specific treatment.
  • [quote user="Elizabeth111222"]I would have to disagree. The only information the physician needs to provide is that the employee is undergoing treatment for a medical condition and what accommodations are needed. You are not "entitled" for information regarding specific treatment.[/quote]

    What information an employer is entitled to has been an issue since FMLA began. There was clarification in the January Revised regulations that should help in this regard. (29 U.S.C. 2613 (b) ) Medical certification is sufficient if it includes the following:

    • The date the condition commenced
    • Probable duration of the condition
    • Appropriate medical facts regarding the condition
    • A statement that the employee is needed to care for a covered family member or a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of the position
    • Dates and duration of any planned treatment
    • A statement of the medical necessity for intermittent leave or reduced leave and expected duration of such leave.

    Though this may seem a lot of information all of this is on the DOL medical certification form WH-380. Though an employer is not entitled to the general health condition of the employee, the employer is entitled to know the reason the employee requires a FMLA qualifying event. The confusion comes in with what does HIPAA require.  FMLA rule (825.307 (a) requires a written valid authorization from the employee if a disclosure is to be made to an authorized person directly by the medical provider. However if an employee has the health care provider complete the medical certification form and the employee personally delivers the form to the FMLA agent of the company the HIPAA privacy rule does not interfere with the disclosure of protected medical information. At any rate, an incomplete medical certification form such as the DOL WH-380 would not qualify an employee for an FMLA protection.

    I hope this helps some.

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