Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued two documents in support of the White House’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Our last blog provided an overview of the document issued to help employees understand their rights. This blog will give you an overview of the guidance the EEOC has provided to employee health care providers in understanding their role in the employment reasonable accommodation process.
The publication aimed at health care providers is called “Helping Patients with HIV Infection Who Need Accommodations at Work.” The document starts by explaining that the employment provisions of the ADA are twofold: (1) the prohibition of discrimination against employees with disabilities; and (2) the requirement to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. The ADA applies only to employers with 15 or more employees.
The guidance document explains that employers may ask health care providers for information about the employee, and it discusses how health care providers can help.
The EEOC states that “a patient with HIV infection will easily meet the ADA’s definition of a “disability.” It offers several examples of likely accommodations for HIV-infected employees:
- Altered break and work schedules;
- Supervisory method changes;
- Visual impairment accommodations;
- Ergonomic office furniture;
- Unpaid leave;
- Permission to telecommute; and
- Reassignment to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified.
In December 2015, the federal Health providers are advised that providing medical records is not the ideal way to advise employers about a patient’s needs because they contain private, unnecessary information. Indeed, health providers must have received a valid release before providing information about a patient. However, once the release is provided, the health provider can help by providing information such as the nature of the disorder, associated functional limitations, the need for accommodation, and potentially effective accommodations.
As with the employee guidance document, the health care provider guidance advises that the ADA “has a very strict standard for excluding individuals with disabilities from jobs because of safety concerns.” In this regard, health providers are advised that if they are asked about whether a patient’s condition poses a “direct threat,” they should limit their evaluation to “the probability of harm occurring under the patient’s actual day-to-day working conditions and current treatment regimen.” The EEOC further advises that this should be based on current medical research, whenever possible.
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