Continuing our Employment Law IQ series, today we focus on Anxious Annie. Anxious Annie works as a receptionist for P U Waste Disposal. She is a decent employee, but seems to have trouble coming to work on time, and often calls in “sick” on Mondays and Fridays. When Annie is written up for absenteeism, Annie tells her supervisor she needs a leave of absence to deal with panic attacks. Annie’s supervisor reports the request to P U’s HR Director, but laughs it off and says the request “smells funny.” P U has more than 15 employees.
Which of the following statements is correct?
A. Because Annie’s disability is not obvious, P U is entitled to receive “reasonable documentation” about the disability and its functional limitations.
B. Because Annie’s disability is not obvious, P U can ask to see Annie’s medical records.
C. Because Annie’s disability is not obvious, P U can ask about the nature of the disability and its functional limitations.
D. Both A and C are correct.
The correct answer is D. When an employee’s claimed disability is not obvious, such as panic attacks or anxiety, an employer has the right to receive “reasonable documentation” about the disability and its functional limitations. An employer can require that the documentation comes from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. Instead of requesting documentation, an employer may simply discuss the nature of the disability, its functional limitations, and appropriate accommodations with the employee. If the disability is obvious, however, the employer cannot ask for confirming documentation.
HR Takeaway. Even if an employer doubts the legitimacy of an employee’s request for leave, the employer should fully engage in the interactive process, and determine whether an appropriate accommodation is available.