Can My Employer Ask for Proof of My Disability?

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

If you’re navigating a situation where your employer is asking for proof of your disability, it’s essential to understand your rights and the legal parameters governing these requests. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides clear guidelines on when and how an employer can ask for more information regarding an employee’s condition.

Overview of the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in various areas, including employment. Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities and must provide reasonable accommodations to enable them to perform their job duties.

Definition of Disability Under the Law

Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment

This definition also includes individuals who have a record of such an impairment or are regarded as having such an impairment. The term “major life activities” encompasses a wide range of activities, from walking and seeing to working and learning.

Employers Cannot Ask About Disabilities During an Interview

When attending a job interview, it is important to know that an employer is prohibited from asking about any disabilities you might possess. This covers both apparent and non-apparent disabilities. Consequently, questions along the lines of “Do you suffer from any disabilities?” are considered unlawful.

They Can Make Inquiries About Job Performance

Nonetheless, it is within the rights of employers to verify if prospective employees are capable of executing job roles effectively. They may pose questions regarding your skills in performing tasks pertinent to the position. When responding to such questions, you have the option to omit mentioning any detailed health information unless it directly impedes your capacity to carry out essential job functions.

Post-Hiring Inquiries May be Permitted

After you are offered the job and you accept, your employer is permitted to ask about the existence of any disabilities. These inquiries are specific to understanding and facilitating suitable accommodations that enable you to efficiently carry out your job responsibilities. However, this permission is not a blanket approval for them to gain access to your medical history. Questions regarding a disability should have a direct connection with arranging the required workplace adjustments and confirming that you’re capable of performing the job.

When Can an Employer Ask For Documentation?

In some scenarios, it is perfectly legal for an employer to ask for documentation of a disability. For example, if you require specific changes or accommodations to your work environment due to a disability, your employer may legally request proof of your condition if it is not clear. This is typically to ensure that the accommodation is necessary and appropriate.

Conditions Where Documentation is Not Required

However, there are scenarios where requesting documentation is not legal. If your condition is obvious, such as being in a wheelchair and requesting a low desk, your employer cannot ask for proof of your disability. The reason behind this is straightforward: your condition is clearly visible, and your needs are evidently related to your disability.

Invisible Conditions

Often, those requested to show medical documentation have conditions that aren’t outwardly observable, like mental health disorders or chronic pain. Providing this paperwork substantiates the request for particular accommodations and assists the employer in offering appropriate support to their employee.

If you find yourself feeling uncertain about how much information is necessary to disclose or if a request seems excessive or invasive, you should consider seeking legal advice. A qualified Orange County workplace discrimination attorney can help guide you through this process while ensuring that your rights are protected. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation.