Can My Employer Request a Doctor’s Note for Taking Time Off?
Can My Employer Request a Doctor’s Note for Taking Time Off?

Can My Employer Request a Doctor’s Note for Taking Time Off?

The matter of whether or not an employer can require an employee to provide a doctor’s note before being allowed time off is complicated. Requesting confirmation that an employee is actually sick is common, and many employers continue to engage in the practice. This makes a better understanding of the rights afforded to employees – and the limitations that apply in relation to requests for illness confirmation – important. Asked to provide a doctor’s note? An experienced San Francisco labor and employment attorney can help.

Requiring a Doctor’s Note

The matter of whether it’s legal to require a doctor’s note in order to take sick leave is murky. Laws on the matter in California are unsettled, and the fact that some employers continue to embrace the practice makes things that much more challenging. The most important note to make here is that employers are not strictly forbidden from demanding doctor notes before okaying sick time, and doing so is a fairly common practice. 

What Employers Can’t Do

In California, employers cannot deny employees the right to use the sick days they’ve accrued. Further, employers cannot retaliate against employees for attempting to use their accrued sick days. The law confirms that employees must be allowed to use accrued sick days in response to oral or written requests for any of the following:

  • For diagnosis of, care for, or treatment of an employee or close family member’s existing health condition
  • For preventative care on the part of an employee or close family member
  • For seeking help after suffering domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking

Prevailing wisdom finds that requiring a doctor’s note could interfere with an employee’s right to take accrued sick leave, but there is no definitive ruling that requiring a doctor’s note does interfere with this right.   

Leave under the California Family Rights Act

Eligible employees are allowed to take leaves through the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is the state’s version of FMLA, under all the following circumstances:

  • To obtain treatment and recover from a serious health condition 
  • To care for a covered family member, such as a spouse, domestic partner, or child
  • To bond with a new baby, an adopted child, or a foster child
  • To address a qualifying emergency that is related to military service 

To take leave under CFRA, which allows up to 12 weeks of job-protected but unpaid leave, an eligible employee must provide the employer with enough information to make a determination regarding whether or not the leave is covered. Toward this end, employers can request a healthcare provider’s certification, which should include the following:

  • The date the serious health condition in question began
  • How long the condition is likely to last
  • The necessary and appropriate medical facts regarding the condition
  • When treatment will be provided, how long it will last, and whether or not treatment will interfere with the employee’s ability to do their job

If an employer demands a doctor’s certification for CFRA leave, the employee must provide it.  

An Experienced San Francisco Labor and Employment Attorney Is Standing by to Help

The Bay Area labor and employment attorneys at Minnis & Smallets have a wealth of experience successfully guiding challenging sick leave claims toward beneficial resolutions that honor our clients’ rights and best interests. Learn more by contacting us today.   

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