The Ontario Human Rights Commission Provides Guidance on Medical Documentation and Accommodation

Authored by Philip A.S. Milley, Associate Director, Legal Affairs 

On February 1, 2017 the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “OHRC”) published guidance for employers on the type and scope of medical documentation needed to support a disability-related accommodation request. The OHRC policy position can be accessed here (the “OHRC Policy”).

While employers generally do not have the right to know a person’s confidential medical information, such as the cause of the disability, diagnosis, symptoms, or treatment, employers may be entitled to this information if it clearly relates to the accommodation being sought. The OHRC Policy addresses this issue and aims to provide guidance with regards to vague medial notes and employer requests for person medical documentation that goes beyond what is necessary to support an accommodation request.

The OHRC Policy cites the OHRC policy on accommodation that provides guidance on what the medical documentation used to support an accommodation should state. The documentation should state

  • 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, of being a tenant, or of being a service user, with or without accommodation; and
  • the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed to allow the person to fulfill the essential duties or requirements of the job, of being a tenant, or of being a service user, etc.
  • in employment, regular updates about when the person expects to come back to work, if they are on leave.

If an employer requires more information in order to make an informed decision about the accommodation, they must acquiring the information in a manner that is the least intrusive of personal privacy. Additionally, the focus of any documentation should always be on the functional limitations associated with the disability, rather than a person’s diagnosis.

Handling accommodation requests correctly is essential. While the OHRC policy is informative, it is not guidance on how to handle an accommodation request. It is advisable that charities contact an employment lawyer to assist with any accommodation request that your organization may receive in order to avoid potential liability.

Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.