September 29, 2020

Obtaining medical information relating to sick leave, disability accommodation, or return to work is normally a routine task for employers and unions. However, the COVID-19 crisis has amplified health-related issues while ushering in a new era of remote work, which has created privacy risks and other unanticipated challenges in information management. In this session, legal and privacy experts will provide practical guidance on obtaining medical information and protecting privacy in the context of the remote workplace, with a focus on the following issues:

  • What constitutes appropriate questioning regarding an employee’s health, and how is such questioning distinguished from overly intrusive or discriminatory inquiries? What unique considerations may apply when inquiring about the health of an employee who is working remotely?
  • What information can an employer or union representative legally require in connection with a request for accommodation or leave? How have requirements for medical information changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What is the most effective way for employers and unions to request information from physicians? If an employee has already provided a medical report from a family doctor, when will the employer be justified in seeking further information, a specialist report, or an independent medical examination (IME)? How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected communication between workplace parties and health care professionals?
  • What legal obligations do employers and unions have when handling employees’ medical information? What are some best practices for fulfilling these obligations in a remote work environment?
  • When, if ever, can employers and unions share medical information with each other or with third parties? How have requirements changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What risks to data privacy and security arise in a remote work environment? What steps can workplace parties take to mitigate these risks, particularly with respect to ensuring the confidentiality of employees’ medical information?
  • What key elements should employers include in their policies to help protect confidential information? How can employers and unions effectively communicate privacy-related policies and procedures to a remote workforce?