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Maternity Note

An employee gave a note from her doctor excusing her from work until her high risk symptoms subside or she gives birth. There is no specific diagnosis or symptoms in the excuse note and does not state bed rest. Am i legally able to ask for a diagnosis code and if she was put on strict bed rest?

There are three federal laws to consider: the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Since not enough details are provided to know which, if any of these laws are applicable let’s briefly discuss each of them.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, including prenatal care, incapacitation due to pregnancy, and childbirth, within a 12-month period.

An eligible employee is one who works for a covered employer, has worked for the employer for at least 12 months, has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave, and works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

Under the FMLA, an employer is permitted to require an employee submit medical certification verifying the need for leave. The certification need only provide enough information to establish the employee’s condition qualifies for FMLA leave. Though no specific form is required to be used, the DOL provides a sample medical certification form at

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any aspect of employment. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with covered disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship, meaning a significant difficulty or expense.

The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees. Any employee with a covered disability is protected under the ADA regardless of his or her tenure with a company.

It’s the employer’s responsibility to determine if an employee has a covered disability under the ADA. If so, it’s also the employer’s responsibility to engage in an interactive exchange of information with the employee to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodations can be made to allow the employee to perform her job.

Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnant employees may have impairments related to their pregnancies that qualify as disabilities under the ADA. There are pregnancy-related impairments that are likely to be disabilities, even though they are temporary, such as pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related sciatica, and preeclampsia.

As with the FMLA, an employee who requests or is need of an accommodation under the ADA may be required to submit medical certification to establish that the employee has an ADA disability and what types of accommodations may benefit the employee.

Under the PDA, an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition must be treated in the same manner as other employees who are temporarily disabled.  For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.

Just like the ADA, the PDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and there is no service criteria for employees to be covered.

The PDA focuses on the employee being treated in the same manner as other temporarily disabled employees. So, if other temporarily disabled employees are required to provide medical certification verifying their need for leave or a job accommodation then the same can be requested of an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition.

It’s also important to consider any state leave or disability laws.

Under all of the aforementioned laws, employers are able to request medical certification from an employee requesting a leave or accommodation. Such certification need not include the employee’s specific diagnosis. However, it must provide enough information to verify the employee is qualified for or in need of leave or an accommodation. Sufficient information should include the nature, severity, and duration of the employee’s impairment/condition, the activities that are limited (i.e. which job duties can/can’t the employee perform), the extent to which such activities are limited (i.e. the employee can only stand for 1 hour at a time), and the expected duration of the employee’s limitations.

So, in a nutshell, yes, you can ask for more details regarding the employee’s ailment and limitations. You may request the employee provide a more detailed doctor’s note or you may contact the employee’s physician directly. When contacting the employee’s physician, focus on asking questions that clarify the original doctor’s note. Again, the employee’s exact diagnosis is not your concern. Your concern is whether the employee qualifies for certain legal protections, which activities are affected by the employee’s limitations, and the extent of the employee’s limitations.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 at 11:49 am and is filed under
Labor Laws.
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