Can employer ask for proof of disability?

If a worker asks for reasonable accommodation, the employer can ask for proof of disability. However, an employer cannot ask for proof of disability if its part of a hiring decision.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) safeguards a disable worker against various concerns which includes prohibiting employers from asking for proof of disability during the hiring process. Under federal law, an employer is allowed to ask an applicant about a disability only after the company hires the applicant. Your disability is recognized as a protected class, which means that employers and colleagues are prohibited from demonstrating bias towards you based on your condition. Moreover, you have the autonomy to choose whether or not to disclose your disability to an employer, as it is your prerogative.

Employers are prohibited from inquiring about disabilities during the hiring process. If an employer asks you about a disability during this stage, it constitutes a violation of your rights under the ADA. In such a situation, you may have grounds to file a claim against the company. It is important to note that employers cannot inquire about disabilities at any point during the hiring process. The only exception is after receiving a job offer, when the employer may ask about disabilities solely for the purpose of providing reasonable accommodations.

The law imposes strict guidelines on when and how an employer can inquire about an employee’s disability. Employers are not permitted to ask about a disability if their intention is to factor it into the hiring decision. However, they may inquire about your ability to perform essential job functions, with or without reasonable accommodations. It is ultimately your choice as the employee whether to disclose information about your disability.

As a worker, it might be advantageous for you to reveal a disability to enhance your job performance. For instance, if you have a hearing impairment, disclosing this disability could result in accommodations such as captioning during workplace presentations or a specialized headset for customer communication. It is important to remember that your employer is prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against you based on your disability disclosure.

In this article, our San Diego employment attorney discusses the following:

Do you need proof of your disability?

In California, it is generally unnecessary to provide proof of a disability to an employer. If your disability is apparent, most employers will accommodate your needs without requiring additional documentation. The only circumstance where you may be required to present medical documentation is when requesting reasonable accommodations and if your disabilities are not readily noticeable.

For instance, if you are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic incident, there may be no visible signs of your disability, and you may be asked to provide evidence to support your condition when seeking workplace accommodations. However, it is important to note that you are not obligated to provide any information or documentation beyond what is necessary to establish your need for the disability accommodation.

If an employer asks for medical documentation prior to granting accommodations, they retain the right to decline the request. However, it is important to note that employers cannot deny reasonable accommodations for disabilities that are proven or clearly evident. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from retaliating against you for seeking disability accommodations. Retaliation may manifest in forms such as harassment, derogatory remarks, discrimination, demotion, or wrongful termination. It is also unlawful for employers to refuse to hire you based on your disability, as long as you can perform the essential duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.

How do you prove that you have a disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals are not required by law to supply proof of their disability to their employers. The ADA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having this kind of impairment.

When it comes to employment, an individual with a disability is responsible for letting their employer know about their need for accommodations. In general, an employer is permitted to ask for documentation or verification of the disability when an employee makes a request for accommodation.

The documentation should establish that the person has a disability within the ADA’s definition and offer relevant information about how the disability impacts the individual’s ability to perform job-related tasks. That said, the documentation should not reveal extensive, detailed medical information that should remain confidential.

The ADA does not detail specific requirements for the format or type of documentation. The employee and employer should engage in an interactive process to figure out what information is necessary to establish the existence of a disability and the need for reasonable accommodations.

It is important to remember that while an employer has the right to ask for documentation, they should not ask for intrusive or unnecessary medical information or otherwise pry into an individual’s personal medical history. The ADA emphasizes confidentiality and privacy in dealing with this kind of information.

If an individual has any issues or concerns related to submitting this kind of proof, they should not hesitate to consult with an employment law attorney.

Filing a claim against an employer

If you feel that your rights as an individual with disabilities have been violated by an employer, you may have grounds to pursue legal action against the company. Initiating a civil employment claim for disability discrimination could potentially lead to compensation for various damages, including lost wages, diminished earning capacity, missed job prospects, and emotional distress. Filing a claim can hold the employer accountable for their actions and contribute to preventing similar issues from affecting employees in the future. If you are in California, seeking the guidance of an employment lawyer can assist you in bringing forth your claim.

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