Medical exemption from uniform shoes

Extent of information needed to determine what shoes can be worn by employee with medical issues
By Brian Kenny
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 03/18/2015

Question: Our store requires dress shoes be worn as part of our uniform. An employee provided a doctor’s note stating that due to medical reasons she couldn’t wear dress shoes. Is this sufficient information or can we require more details as to why the employee can’t wear the shoes required?

Answer: Employers need to be cautious in approaching the medical issues of their employees, specifically where the employee has already provided medical information to verify a disability and the required accommodation for it. For example, based on the case law, it would likely be inappropriate to inquire into the specific diagnosis as to why the employee cannot wear the required shoes (apart from establishing a disability requiring the same) as this ventures into seeking the employee's private medical information without a reasonable basis for the request. However, it would not be unreasonable to inquire as to the specific details of the limitation as they impact the accommodation exercise, or whether there are additional, related restrictions faced by the employee that the employer should be aware of in fashioning an appropriate accommodation. The distinction is that the latter relates to specific information required by the employer to determine appropriate accommodation for the employee, while the former simply requests knowledge of the underlying cause (which, arguably, is not needed for the purposes of implementing necessary accommodations).