You may have been asked for a doctor’s note by your employer when you have taken off from work because you were ill. You might wonder whether there is a law that concerns a requirement by employers for doctors’ notes from their employees.
Employers are allowed to ask their employees to get notes from their doctors when they take off from work because of illness. However, the policy must be applied equally to all of the employees. Employers are not allowed to ask specific employees to get doctors’ notes every time that they call in sick while they let other employees take sick time without submitting notes. If your employer makes you get a doctor’s note each time you are sick but does not have the same requirement of the other employees, you might want to talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
What can a doctor’s note contain?
A note from your doctor can only contain a confirmation that you were examined on a specific date and time together with the days that you should be kept from working because of your illness. If a note contains more information than that, it might violate patient confidentiality laws.
If your employer is worried about a contagious illness, it can ask that your doctor’s note states that you are not contagious before you will be allowed to return to your job. Your employer must be able to show that this is necessary for the company, however.
Accommodations and doctors’ notes
If you need accommodations at your job because of a disability, your employer can ask you to get a doctor’s note to verify both your disability and your need for accommodations. The employer cannot use the note as a reason to discriminate against you or to terminate your employment, however.
Privacy laws and HIPAA
HIPAA is a law that establishes national standards for the protection of the privacy of your medical records. Normally, it is not a violation under HIPAA for your employer to ask for a note from your doctor as long as the employer needs information for health insurance, worker’s compensation, or sick leave. Your medical information must be kept separately away from your personnel file.
FMLA and doctors’ notes
Courts have ruled that the testimony of a worker combined with medical evidence, including a doctor’s note, is sufficient to show that the employee missed work because of a serious health condition under the FMLA. The FMLA prohibits disciplinary or retaliatory actions based on an employee’s medical leave under the law if there is some type of medical evidence to back up the employee’s statement.
What to do
If your employer has asked you for a doctor’s note when it doesn’t require your coworkers to provide doctors’ notes, the employer’s actions may be in violation of labor standards. Other actions that might similarly be illegal include using your medical information as a reason to discipline or terminate you, sharing your private medical information with others in your workplace, failing to keep your medical records separate from your personnel file, and others. Talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler if you believe that your rights have been violated by your employer.