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Doctor’s Excuse

I have read many places, including this website, that it is legal for an employer to require a doctor’s excuse for sick leave or attendance policy, and then most that I have read then states that usually employers request this after 2 or 3 days. However, what if an employee is not paid for sick leave and only calls off sick for one day, and the health insurance is awful, can the employer require a doctor’s excuse? If we as the employer require a doctor’s excuse, can the employee request that we pay for it?
Thank you.

Yes, as an employer you can require a doctors excuse after an absence of just one day. An employee can request anything, including a million dollars in unmarked bills and that you pay for the doctors visit. But you are under no obligation to fulfil those requests.

There are two reasons why employers request doctors notes after absences. The first is to discourage employees from friviously using paid sick days for minor — or non-existant– illnesses. The second reason is to reduce the employers liability. Employees are required to present a doctors note that they are well enough to return to work. Suppose Jon takes a day off because he has a sprained shoulder. The doctors release assures Jons employer that he can safely resume his normal work duties.

Employers are under no obligation to pay for the doctors visit, even if the employee has no healthcare insurance whatsoever. The assumption is that if the employee was genuinely ill enough to miss work, he was probably under a doctors care, anyway.

The employer cannot require that either the employee or the doctor disclose the exact diagnosis. That is protected information under HIPAA.

In most cases, if an employee returns to work without a doctors, the absence is considered unexcused. The employee will usually receive a verbal or written reprimand. In some cases, the employer may terminate the employee. In other cases, the employer will not allow the employee to return to work without a doctors release. This is a matter of company policy, not employment law.

Whether or not the employer offers paid sick leave is irrelevant.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 12th, 2009 at 12:12 pm and is filed under
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14 Responses to “Doctor’s Excuse”

  1. Can you Build your Internet Business With No Html? | Tutorialism Weblog Says:

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  2. Stephanie Keegan Says:

    Can the same be applied to an employee who asks to leave early? We had an employee simply state that they did not feel well and wanted to go home. The employee declined to gove an explanation as to what the problem was, stress/fever/cramps etc. Can we as the employer ask for an excuse even though part of the day has been worked already? This employee is a salaried non-exempt employee in California.



  3. renaissance clothing Says:

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  4. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for reading, Renny!~ Caitlin

  5. auto loan online approval Says:

    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi auto! Feel free to quote up to 3 lines of the post, and include a link to the original article. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. William Potter Says:

    What is an employer allowed to require to be written on a Doctors excuse?

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi william! The employer cannot require a diagnosis on a doctors excuse. Many employers who use the note as an “excuse” want to know how many days the employee was unable to work, and that the employee was seen in the doctors office. The employer can require a release that indicates the employee can safely return to work. In some cases, the employer can require that the doctor indicate that the employee does not have a contagious disease that could be a hazard for coworkers. In some cases, the employer will prepare a detailed list of job duties and require that the doctor sign to verify that the employee can complete all of them. If you have an issue not covered in this info, post a more specific comment and we will address it. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. Kari Says:

    We have a policy stating: Being absent from work (as defined above) for one day is considered one incident of absence. Being absent for two or more consecutive days for the same medical reason and providing a doctor’s note is considered to be one incident. For a medical reason that requires therapy or post exams, those follow up visits will be considered related to the first incident. In order for those visits to be considered part of the initial incident, the employee must bring a doctor’s note for each time missed.
    We have an employee that was hurt at another job, is going to a chiropractor and wants them all counted as one incident. The intent of this policy was a short term reason and she seems to be taking advantage of it. Should we excuse all further visits?

  10. mary Says:

    My employer has a dr note from my dr saying I must get a break everyday due to diabetes.. often they do not go by this dr note and not give me a break because of some lame xcuse.. please tell me how to deal with this issue.. thanx

  11. Casey Says:

    I have an employee that takes off of work at least twice a month or more. The excuse is “I have a doctor’s appointment”. I have asked for a doctor’s note upon returning to work. Can I ask that if it is not in a policy?
    Thanks for your help.

  12. hrlady Says:

    Hi Casey,
    It’s best to require a doctor’s note as part of a policy to avoid discrimination claims. But if you suspect an employee is abusing sick time then requesting the employee provide proof of their doctor’s appointment is acceptable. Just make sure to document your reasoning. You should also consider if the employee is covered under the FMLA or ADA.

  13. kay Says:

    Employee was in car accident 2 months ago. Her attorney suggested she go to chiropractor 3 times a week. She leaves early 3 days a week for this which leaves us short staffed. Can we request full doctor’s release and are we required to let her leave early 3 days a week to make it to chiropractor appointment?

  14. hrlady Says:

    Hi Kay, It’s important to determine first if the employee is covered under federal or state leave or disability laws like the FMLA or ADA. If so, you may require the employee to provide medical certification verifying her need for the absences. Before doing so, make sure you’re aware of your responsibilities and the employee’s entitlements under any applicable laws. Let’s assume the employee isn’t covered under federal or state leave or disability laws. In this case, employers are generally free to adopt their own policies or practices of requiring medical certifications for reoccurring or extended absences. You may request the employee provide a certification from a medical practitioner that explains the employee’s work limitations. Consider providing the employee’s job description to the doctor and ask him to confirm the employee’s ability, or lack thereof to perform her duties. The employee’s exact diagnosis is not required to be provided to you, just her ability to perform her job. Whether the employee is entitled to leave early 3 days a week depends on your normal treatment of temporarily disabled employees. If other temporarily disabled employees have been allowed to arrive late/leave early then this employee should receive the same entitlement. Basically, you want to treat this employee in the same manner you’ve treated other similarly situated employees. You can and should request the employee to schedule her appointments during non-work hours. Though it’s best to make a good faith effort to accommodate employees, absent past practice and again assuming the employee is not protected under applicable leave or disability laws, there is no requirement to grant the employee the time off. HTH!

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