YOUR COMPANY’S NEED FOR A MEDICAL COMMUNICATIONS POLICY
As you are well aware, your workplace is governed in part by administrative agencies when it comes to medical communication with employees. Laudible as the ADA and FMLA are in the broad scheme of things, they place a greater administrative effort on your staff. Employers are constantly running the risk of asking, saying or doing the “wrong” thing when it comes to making inquiries of an employee’s medical condition. A policy which can help make you “bullet proof” from charges and lawsuits is a Medical Communication Policy.
Breakdowns and miscommunications surrounding medical leave and consequent return to work issues are frequently the result of a doctor being a zealous advocate for their patient while you want an employee who is honest about their leave and their restrictions to perform the essential functions of their job. Do they need “reasonable accommodation” upon their return to work? Do you know how and when to offer modified duty? In the absence of a policy, your actions could be painted as discriminatory and pretextual. What should such a policy entail?
• When you are about to hire an applicant, you need a policy which provides for past job offer medical examinations to determine whether they can perform the essential functions of the job they are expected to assume;
• Employees may be requited to have an examination on other occasions, such as transfers or promotions, or “whenever management determines that the interests of the Company will be served/” This is your company, run it, but be able to back up your legitimate business reasons;
• Whenever an employee is absent because of an alleged illness or injury, you may take steps necessary to confirm the nature and extent of the health condition, notably to determine if it was work related;
• But for instances involving FMLA leave, you should accept medical communication only from licensed physicians who have personally seen the employee on the day the communication is written or dictated. This helps eliminate the nurse with the rubber stamp;
• Medical communications must be satisfactory to the company and preferably on a designated form which asks questions you want answers to. If the doctor’s excuse does not comply with your policy, it will be rejected;
• Post your “Policy On Medical Communication From Doctors” for employees and follow it in a uniform and consistent basis to defend yourself from claims of discrimination.
It is your workplace. Exercise sound managerial judgement to keep it yours.