The use of independent medical examinations (IMEs) in determining appropriate accommodations is highly contentious. Unions and employees may doubt the independence of a physician designated by the employer or whose income is derived mostly from performing evaluations for employers and insurance companies. Employers, on the other hand, may have reason to doubt the objectivity of an employee’s physician or health care professional. In this session, experts will discuss this dilemma, specifically addressing the following questions:
- How and when are IMEs typically used in the accommodation process?
- What are the problems with the prevailing approach to IMEs from the perspectives of employers, unions, employees, and health care professionals?
- Do IMEs lead to undue stress for employees, causing or aggravating existing mental disorders? If so, how can the adverse effects on an employee’s well-being be minimized?
- Do medical examiners who make IMEs their primary business have the necessary independence and clinical experience to provide information that is both unbiased and useful?
- Do functional ability or functional capacity assessments — which are often conducted by psychologists or occupational therapists — provide information that is more useful in fashioning an appropriate accommodation than medical examinations performed by physicians?
- What are the key features of a collaborative IME or functional assessment process that is acceptable to all parties? How can an agreed-upon IME or functional assessment process be designed so as to benefit all parties — the employer, the employee, and the union?