November 17, 2016

In this session, experienced lawyers and physicians will share insights on effective ways of getting the medical information you are entitled to and need in your capacity as an employer or union representative, while also respecting employee privacy. The panelists will address such questions as:

  • Making appropriate inquiries: What are some practical tips and best practices for raising the potential need for accommodation with an employee? What are some common pitfalls to avoid? Are there any special considerations or tips for broaching the issue of accommodation when a suspected disability is psychiatric or psychological in nature? How should employers and unions deal with the issue of denial in the face of evidence to the contrary?
  • Requesting necessary medical information: What medical information may an employer or union representative legally request? When can they ask for it? What information can be sought in an initial versus later request? What is the most effective way of requesting the information you need? Are standardized forms helpful? If so, what should and should not be included in standardized forms? How specific should employers and unions be in their requests for information from physicians? What types of questions are likely to prompt physicians to provide useful as opposed to vague information? What should you do in response to a vague doctor’s note that states, for example, that an employee “needs to be off work for three weeks due to workplace stress”? Should you ask for more specific information? If so, how?
  • Consulting the right healthcare professional: When do you need information from a specialist? Are there particular types of questions that general practitioners are ill-equipped or reluctant to answer? For mental health issues, is information from a family doctor sufficient, or should you seek medical information from a psychiatrist or psychologist? What relative weight should employers give to information from specialists, information from GPs and information from health care professionals who are not physicians (e.g. licensed counsellors, psychologists)? In what circumstances should you insist on an independent medical examination?
  • Protecting privacy: What information is an employer or insurer entitled to obtain from a doctor? What information is a doctor entitled to give without consent from the employee? How should the union or employer respond if the doctor discloses more of an employee’s private health information than is necessary? Are employers free to share an employee’s medical information with the employee’s union in order to facilitate accommodation? What should employers and unions do to protect confidentiality of medical information in their possession?