Sick leave and supporting medical evidence

OPSEU Local 415

OPSEU Local 415 is the democratically-run body that represents Algonquin College full-time and partial-load faculty (professors and instructors), cousellors, and librarians.

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In cases of illness, the College may request information to support your sick leave claim. This article discusses correct procedures.

The College should never have direct access to your doctor.  Under 17.01 F 6 of our Collective Agreement, the College is entitled to “such medical evidence, if any, that the College may require.”  Given the importance of personal privacy, and the significance of the relationship between an individual and his or her physician, this Article cannot be interpreted to mean that the College has the right to direct access to your physician.  Rather, this provision just means the College is entitled to a medical note of some sort, and, if dissatisfied with that note, to ask for more information, again through you.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has spoken to the importance of privacy and the relationship with one’s doctor:

“Too easy access to medical records would constitute an intolerable intrusion into a relationship where the patient, in order to obtain proper treatment, is driven to reveal information of the most intimate character.  Access to health records by the state threatens an intrusion into the core Charter value of respect for the dignity of the individual.”

Numerous arbitrators have also spoken to the significance of privacy and sacrosanct nature of the relationship between an individual and his or her doctor.

In the context of an employer’s need for medical information, the employer should ask for a medical certificate or note that addresses the employer’s concern. Normally, this note will only say “was sick and unable to work on these days” or “fit to work as of this day”. This meets the employee’s initial onus of providing medical information (or “medical evidence” in the case of our Collective Agreement) to an employer.  If for some reason this note is insufficient for the employer, the employer must explain, with specifics, why that is the case and what more information is needed.

One arbitral passage on this which has been quoted a few times says:

“If the employer has reasonable grounds on the facts of the case to question the validity or the completeness of the opinion stated in the medical certificate, then it must explain clearly to its employee the reason the medical certificate is not acceptable and what specific information is requested so that the employee can return to its treating physician and obtain the proper information.”

In summary, we advise you not to agree to any direct contact between the College and your doctor. If the College wants information, the College must ask you. You may then relay the College’s requests to your doctor. If the College has contacted you for medical information you may wish to consult a union steward.

Past Local  President -Doug Brandy

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