Whether or not management has the right to medical documentation depends on the circumstances involved. It is important to know the limits of the Postal Service’s authority when requesting your personal medical data. However, in the event you are required to produce medical documentation it should be sent to the medical unit at 1200 William Street and should never be handed to your local supervisor. Only the medical unit can make the determination on whether or not your documentation is suitable. Your supervisor does not need to know any of your medical history
When a career employee calls in sick management should not be requesting medical documentation unless the employee has called in for 3 or more days. Recently management has placed some members in the “deems desirable” category. When this happens the attendance program will automatically request documentation when an employee calls in sick even if it is for 1 day. If you are required to provide documentation you must provide it and then file a grievance. The medical documentation must state the dates you were unable to work due to illness. It must also state the “nature of the illness”. The documentation does not have to have your diagnosis or prognosis. The language requesting diagnosis was changed some years ago to coincide with the Rehabilitation Act. Documentation that only states “was under my care” or “was seen by me” is insufficient. The medical unit determines whether or not it is suitable and sends an email to the station informing them of that fact.
The “nature of illness” criteria may be vague but it should be sufficient to let management know that you were ill. As an example rather than let the Service know you were absent because of pneumonia the doctors note cold state that you were unable to work because of “respiratory ailment”.
Even if you are injured on the job and have a compensable injury you are not required to let your supervisor know what your restrictions are. You are only required to let your supervisor know that you have been released for limited duty with restrictions. In this case your medical documentation should be sent to the Injury Compensation office on William Street. Normally, a CA-17 or an OWCP-5 is used in cases of compensable injuries.Besides your restrictions these forms mention the body part affected. The comp office will let your supervisor know what your restrictions are without indicating your actual injury. In the event a search for work is done your name is not used but is attached with your compensation number. This prevents your medical restrictions from being associated with a name.
In the event that an employee suffers an off the job injury and cannot work full duty they are required to request “light duty”. This is done by sending a letter to the Postmaster with the medical documentation containing your restrictions. A narrative from your doctor containing your restrictions should be sufficient.
Sometimes employees may be off work for an extended period of time and may be covered by FMLA. In these types of cases a note from your physician stating that you are capable of returning to full duty and the date you are able to return is sufficient. Locally, management has been giving carriers a form that lists restrictions. Many times they are telling carriers that their doctor needs to fill this out. This form is not an approved Postal Form and does not need to be filled out. A careful reading of that form states that the firm is “voluntary”. If management gives you that form please call the union office
This District used to have a policy which required the “nature of illness” in those cases where an employee could only work 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week. This Branch filed a grievance on this issue. There is a national decision which states that the inability to work overtime does not automatically mean that an employee is on “light duty”. Eventually, the Postal Service made a policy that stated that these carriers must request “limited duty hours” and provide medical documentation which listed the “nature of illness”. The Branch filed a grievance claiming that this was a violation of the Rehabilitation Act
In essence the Rehabilitation Act places limits on an employer when requesting certain medical information. In this case it states that an employer may only request the nature of illness in those cases where they have reason to believe that an employee could not perform all the essential functions of the job. As stated earlier, working overtime is NOT an essential function of the job. At the Arbitration management had agreed to rescind that policy. Recently the union became aware of a case where an employee was required to submit the nature of illness because of overtime restriction. We filed a class action grievance claiming a violation of the prior settlement. If management requests the nature of illness because you have an 8/40 hour note please notify the union office.
As you can see there are a variety of situations that may occur regarding your medical information. Federal Law and our contract protect your rights and limit the Postal Service’s ability to certain documentation. In the event that you feel management is requesting certain information that you wish to keep confidential, call the union office for further information.