How do you ask your Dr for an accommodation letter?
June 9, 2021 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I was diagnosed with a disability a few years ago but I was able to continue working. Now to keep my current job I'm going to need an accommodation. What's the best way to approach this?

What's the process for talking to my doctor? Do I get a letter or does the Dr's office send it directly to my employer? Are there keywords I need to say? Do I write the letter and have the Dr sign it? Does the letter need to detail my disability or just the accommodation?

The job handbook from HR isn't very detailed and doesn't have a form I can give my Dr. Advice and anecdotal information is very much needed.

The accommodation would be to WFH (I'm currently in the office) but my disability is normally invisible but becomes more noticeable as my symptoms progess and flare-up.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have done this many times for patients. Typically I'll address the letter To whom it may concern, then write the diagnosis and then something like "requires frequent rest breaks" or "cannot stand at a cash register" or whatever job function needs accommodation. I give this to the patient who gives it to whoever.

It ought to be on letterhead, so please don't write the letter for the doctor to sign -- this would feel pretty sketch to me and while I appreciate the timesaving impulse, I'd just rewrite the whole thing myself. More helpful would be giving the doctor a list of your job functions (maybe from the job description HR has) and how they are impacted by your disability.

I haven't done one requesting WFH specifically but I have done several noting high risk for covid, if that's relevant.
posted by basalganglia at 11:03 AM on June 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

When I requested one, I talked with my doctor about the things that were causing me difficulty about being in the office full-time. After the appointment, she sent me a letter on letterhead saying that I had been evaluated and have "permanent restrictions as listed below: Patient has a chronic medical condition and benefits from working from home 1 day per week and being provided appropriate accommodation to have a quiet and semi-private work environment. Noise-cancelling headphones are recommended."

I submitted a copy of it to my employer's HR department, and they did what was necessary to set up a part-time WFH schedule for me. (The noise-cancelling headphones they provided were crap, though, and I wound up spending $70 of my own money on a much better pair.)
posted by Lexica at 11:15 AM on June 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

JAN (Job Accommodation Network) is a great resource that both you and your employer can use. They have sample letters, sample processes, accommodation guides, and lots of explanation of how this works for everyone involved. I highly recommend checking it out.
posted by ourobouros at 11:48 AM on June 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

Have you talked to anyone in HR about this? At my job, I met with someone in HR, they explained the process, and then in our case, there was a form (online or paper) that I needed my medical provider to fill out. Then they filled it out and submitted it, and I was all set. I feel like this is something a lot of doctors deal with somewhat regularly.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:50 AM on June 9, 2021

I'd read a guide to the accommodations process that's directed to employers to get a sense of how they might approach this and what they might think about.
posted by slidell at 1:04 PM on June 9, 2021

First, have a conversation with your doctor about your work and make sure that you are on the same page about what your restrictions are and what accommodations your doctor would recommend. Then, depending on whether your organization is relatively large/has HR people that have been competent in your past dealings with them I would either: (1) if they are generally incompetent or you work for a small company that is not likely to have processes in place then go ahead and have your doctor provide a note specifically addressing both restrictions (what you cannot do or is difficult to do because of your disability) and recommended accommodations and then give that to HR to start the process; OR if your employer has it together/is a relatively large organization, approach HR and tell them you would like to discuss a reasonable accommodation for your disability and they should then provide you a packet of documents with a questionnaire for your doctor, or with your permission they can send it directly to your doctor.

The reason this depends on size/competence of HR is that if they have their own process and documentation they're likely to require you to use their forms and a doctor's note alone likely isn't going to be sufficient, so you may be wasting your/the doctor's time starting with a doctor's note.

JAN is indeed a good resource. And keep in mind that an employer is not required to give you the specific accommodation you want, just an accommodation that will allow you to perform the essential functions of your job, so if you anticipate resistance to working from home make sure to think about (and discuss with your doctor) why it is that that specific accommodation is needed versus others that might otherwise address your restrictions. Finally, do not write any doctor letters yourself, they need to come directly from the doctor. Good luck!
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:59 PM on June 10, 2021

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