Management is demanding acceptable medical documentation when a letter carrier returns to work after an illness or injury. Many letter carriers are experiencing lost wages and disciplinary action when management deems their medical documentation invalid or unacceptable.
Management is insistent that documentation must contain a specific diagnosis from the physician and state that the employee is incapacitated and cannot report to work.
What must your medical document contain in order for it to be considered acceptable documentation by management, and when should a letter carrier be required to submit medical documentation when they return to work? The provisions for medical documentation/evidence can be found in the Employer and Labor Relations Manual (ELM).
Section 513.361 Three days or less
For periods of 3 days or less, supervisors may accept the employees’ statement explaining the absence. Medical documentation or acceptable evidence of incapacity for work is required only when the employee is on restricted sick leave or when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the Postal Service.
Section 513.362 Over three days
For absences in excess of 3 days, employees are required to submit medical documentation or other acceptable evidence of incapacity for work.
Section 513.364 Medical Documentation or other acceptable evidence
When employees are required to submit medical documentation pursuant to these regulations, such documentation should be furnished by the employee’s attending physician or other attending practitioner. The documentation should provide an explanation of the nature of the employee’s illness or injury sufficient to indicate to management that the employee was (or will be) unable to perform his or her normal duties for the period of absence. Normally, medical statements such as “Under my Care” or “Received Treatment” are not acceptable evidence of incapacitation to perform duties.
Postal regulations do not require medical documentation to contain a specific diagnosis when an employee is requesting sick leave for themselves. However, in cases where an employee voluntarily provides management with personal medical information, supervisors have a responsibility to protect the employee’s information and privacy. Management has the responsibility to submit all personal information to the Medical Unit to be filed in the employee’s medical file, returned to the employee or destroyed after necessary review. It is not to be kept in a file in management’s office.
As per the ELM, the only requirement medical documentation must provide in order to be deemed acceptable is the employee’s physician providing evidence or the employee’s incapacity for work.
I always say knowledge is power and knowing what management can and cannot require of employees in regards to requesting acceptable medical documentation is vital to protecting an employee’s medical information and privacy. Supervisors are not physicians and are prohibited from requiring a specific diagnosis or prognosis.
If you should need additional information concerning medical certification, you can find information under the subject heading in the NALC Materials Reference System (MRS) or on the nylcbr36.org website. I hope you all continue to have a happy and healthy summer.