From the Hotline: Medical Documentation for Employees with Contagious Diseases

Question:  Can we require special medical documentation or suggest that an employee see a doctor of our choosing when returning to work after having a contagious disease?

Answer:  Given there is a legitimate concern of the health and safety of your employees and clients, you can seek clarification from the employee in the form of medical certification that he does not pose a risk in this regard. We do recommend exercising sensitivity toward the employee when requesting the documentation.

We would also recommend that you exercise caution when asking for a “second opinion” relating to his doctor’s medical release to return to work.  If you do wish to pursue a second opinion, consider the rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Under the ADA, disability-related inquiries and examinations of employees must be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the ADA, a medical inquiry or examination is job-related and consistent with business necessity when:

  • an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition, or
  • an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition, or
  • an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation and the employee’s disability or need for accommodation is not known or obvious, or
  • it is required in positions that affect public safety, such as police and fire fighters.

General information regarding contagious disease and guidance for reducing exposure can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website at.  http://www.cdc.gov/.