- A self diagnosis cannot serve as evidence of a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal district court has ruled (Jones v. Denis R. McDonough, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, No. 3:19-cv-00310 (D. Tenn., March 15, 2021)).
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defeated a disability discrimination claim because the plaintiff hadn't provided medical documentation to support her apparent self-diagnosis of depression and anxiety, the court explained. She offered only a doctor's note stating that she was starting a new medication because she had "difficulty concentrating and her productivity has been going down" and that her performance should improve in a few weeks.
- "Based on this language alone, the court cannot conclude that [the doctor] diagnosed the plaintiff as suffering from any particular mental or psychiatric impairment," the district court said, granting summary judgment for the employer. The plaintiff intends to appeal the ruling, according to court documents.
Although it is easier for an employee to qualify for ADA protections now than before its 2008 amendments, certain threshold requirements must be met. The changes to the law expanded its coverage and changed its focus from inquiries into whether a worker has a disability and toward consideration of whether accommodations are available and whether discrimination occurred.
Experts often encourage employers to accommodate a worker's impairment without undertaking a deep analysis of whether a condition meets the ADA's definition of "disability." However, the ADA allows employers to ask for additional information if a disability is not obvious. This can happen through a discussion with the employee or a request to a healthcare provider.
If an employer asks for medical documentation, then the employer must exercise "good judgment," experts previously told HR Dive. If a disability and need for an accommodation is clear, then a discussion about the worker's disability or limitations is enough, they said; employers may be on firmer legal ground to request documentation when an employee seeks accommodation for a disability such as depression or diabetes.