When employers and employees become engaged in disputes over job issues, it is not uncommon to see employees claim inability to work due to a job-related stress disorder. Employers understandably often suspect the legitimacy of such diagnoses by the employees’ physicians, and wish to have independent medical corroboration. A new decision from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals makes clear that employees must cooperate in such second opinions to claim protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case was filed by a Kansas City corrections officer who claimed job-related anxiety and stress disorder after she was denied permission to take an extended vacation. When her employer requested a second medical opinion, she refused to release her medical records to the City’s chosen psychiatrist. Based on this refusal, the City terminated the employee, and she sued under the ADA claiming failure to accommodate her medical condition.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim. The court noted EEOC regulations issued under the ADA that require an employee to cooperate with reasonable requests from the employer for confirmation of the alleged disability. Failure to allow release of her medical records disqualified the employee from entitlement to reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Her stated concern that she did not want her employer to learn of infertility treatments referenced in the medical records did not excuse her from this requirement. The employer’s request was reasonable and business related.
The employer’s rights to access to the employee’s medical records would have been the same if the employee had been entitled to Family and Medical Leave. However, in some states, if the employee had filed a contested Workers’ Compensation claim, procedural rules governing such claims may not have allowed a direct demand by the employer for such records.