Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy Position On Medical Documentation

February 7, 2017

By Brad Smith

On February 1, 2017 the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a policy statement on medical documentation when addressing accommodation requests based on disability. The policy is intended to address two questions. First, people with disabilities often provide or rely on ambiguous or vague medical notes that do not provide enough information to allow for appropriate accommodation. Second, when employers and others request personal medical information that goes beyond what is required.

Section 8.7 of the Commission’s Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability states the type and scope of medical information to be provided to support an accommodation request shall include:

  • the person has a disability
  • the limitations or needs associated with the disability
  • whether the person can perform the essential duties or requirements of the job, of being a tenant, or of being a service user, with or without accommodation
  • the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed to allow the person to fulfill the essential duties or requirements of the job, of being a tenant, or of being a service user, etc.
  • in employment, regular updates about when the person expects to come back to work, if they are on leave.

The policy statement and Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability contemplate more medical information may be sought and should be provided. The requested information must balance two objectives: the least intrusive of the person’s privacy and enough information to make an informed decision about the accommodation.

Consistent with past practice and jurisprudence, the policy statement concludes that the accommodation provider does not have the right to know confidential medical information, such as the cause of the disability, diagnosis, symptoms or treatment, unless these clearly relate to the accommodation being sought, or the person’s needs are complex, challenging or unclear and more information is needed.