In most cases, your employer can require you to provide a doctor’s note as long as it does not violate your right to privacy and is not used in a discriminatory manner. While you may need to provide a note from your doctor to verify you are ill, you are not required to disclose the type of illness or any treatment.
Check with your employer about what is required. You will typically find this kind of information in a company handbook.
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How To Get a Doctor’s Excuse for Work
Getting a doctor’s note for your employer is fairly easy. When you have a doctor’s appointment or go to a healthcare facility such as an urgent care center, tell them you need a written doctors excuse for work.
Doctors know the drill, so they will provide a note for you. If there is specific information that needs to be included, just let them know. Typically, it should include:
- The date of your office visit
- Any limitations based on your condition
- If further work absences are required
Notes should not disclose medical conditions. Your employer does not have a right to access your medical information without your permission unless you are applying for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or accommodations under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even then, most medical information does not need to be disclosed.
In some cases, you may not even need to leave your home to get a doctor’s note. Many health insurance providers now cover telehealth, which allows you to see a doctor from the privacy of your home using a smartphone, computer, laptop, or mobile device. You just need a strong internet connection and a camera.
Do I Need a Doctor’s Note?
Whether you need a doctor’s note for your employer will depend on several things, but it begins with whether your employer requires one. Some employers want verification that you were unable to work if you miss a day, although most don’t require a note unless you miss several days or a week. You should check with the human resources department to find out your company policy.
Depending on where you live, there are also state laws that may come into play.
Government workers and federal contractors will likely need a note for an absence of three or more consecutive days to get paid sick leave.
FMLA and ADA Doctor’s Notes
Employers can ask for a doctor’s note when it comes to work-related injuries or disabilities. The ADA, for example, allows employers to request additional information from physicians to learn about any impairment that may impact an employee’s ability to do a job or require accommodations. This is especially common if the condition is not apparent.
Health information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Healthcare providers cannot discuss your medical conditions with your employer unless you grant permission.
FMLA grants employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific medical or family reasons. During this time, employment status is protected and health insurance remains in place just as if the employee remained working. To apply for FMLA, employers will require certification from a doctor or healthcare provider.
If you are taking an extended leave, you may have to provide an additional doctor’s note for recertification every 6 months. Employers may also request a follow-up note from your doctor when you return to work from FMLA leave saying you are OK with returning to the workplace.
Worker’s Comp and Doctor’s Notes
It is generally OK for employers to request a note from your doctor in the case of a workplace illness or work-related injury. In most cases, they will want a release saying that is OK for you to return to work to prevent any future claims.
Can I Write My Own Note?
In some cases, employers will accept a note you write yourself about a brief illness, but don’t pretend it’s from your doctor or use a fake doctor note like the kind you find online. Not only is it unethical — and might get you fired if they find out it’s a fake — but it can also be illegal. Using a doctor’s name and affixing a signature may be a crime. Forgery is a felony.
Keep Your Employer Informed
If you find you need a doctor’s note for work, make sure you have the information you need. You want to protect your privacy when it comes to medical information, but also provide your employer with what they need to stay informed.
If you have a medical condition that falls under FMLA, ADA, or Worker’s Comp, check with your employer for the forms they need and what needs to be included in a doctor’s note.