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Requiring a Doctor’s Note

I recently have a combative employee in Illinois who keeps taking days off for being ill, which were days she tried to request off with less than 30 days notice (our company policy). I was always under the impression that we could request a doctor’s note after only 2 consecutive missed work days. Is there a law regarding this? Or could this be referring to a company policy?

Policies regarding paid time off are generally at the discretion of the employer. Illinois law doesn’t require employers to provide employees with paid sick or vacation time, neither does it specify a certain amount of days an employee must be absent before an employer may request a doctor’s note.

Absent an employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement stating otherwise, an employer is able to adopt paid time off policies of their choosing, including requiring advanced notice and approval of vacation time and requiring a doctor’s note to excuse an absence related to an illness.

Employers can require a doctor’s note after even just one absence due to an illness. However, this is not always practical. Most individuals don’t visit a doctor for a common cold or migraine or any minor illness that may require one or two days of missed work. Moreover, the employee may have to take additional time off to then visit the doctor in order to obtain the requested note. It’s more common to require a doctor’s note after 3 consecutive days of missed work due to an illness. But, an employee who takes advantage of her sick time must be disciplined as appropriate.

It sounds like the employee was denied the use of vacation or personal days because she failed to provide sufficient notice per company policy then attempted to take the days off anyway claiming to be sick. It’s best to first meet with the employee. Explain that the coincidence of her becoming ill on the same days that her paid time off request was denied is concerning and questionable. Don’t be too accusatory since coincidences are sometimes just that. However, if this employee has a history of similar behavior or you have reason to believe the employee is being deceitful then it’s important to address the problem. Tell her that from now on any days for which she claims to be out sick and she coincidently has requested and been denied time off will require a doctor’s note. Be clear that taking advantage of sick time is not appropriate and will be treated as misconduct resulting in disciplinary action.

Remember to refrain from inquiring about the employee’s specific medical condition, even if you question its validity. Even a doctor’s note should only include the employee’s name, date of visit, and whether the employee’s condition prevented her from working.

It’s also a good idea to add a phrase to your sick time policy that after a specified number of consecutive sick days a doctor’s note will be required. Further add that the employer may request a doctor’s note after just one absence. Employees are less likely to take advantage of sick time when they know up front that they may be required to submit a doctor’s note.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 9:21 am and is filed under
Attendance Management.
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