Legally, When Out Sick, What Records Does My Employer Have the Right to Ask For?

Illness can lead to paperwork for you and your employer.
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If you call out from work for being sick, your employer may request some form of proof of your condition. There are reasons for your employer's request and limits to the information that must be provided. By understanding what you'll need to provide and why, you can avoid any disputes or difficulty when you return to work.

Short Term

    Your employer can ask for proof of your illness in the form of a doctor's note or other documentation if you are out of work for a single day in most states. While most employers will only ask for proof after a long-term injury or illness, you are legally responsible to provide that proof if requested no matter how long you are out. In fact, Montana is the only state that does not have "at-will" employment laws which allow an employer to terminate any worker for any reason, or no reason at all unless under contract. Even if you supply the required evidence, your position may still be terminated if your employer wishes to do so.

Advanced Notice

    If you know you're going to miss work for a medical reason such as surgery, treatment or a procedure that's being performed either on you or a close family member, you may wish to clear the time off with your employer beforehand. Medical documentation may be required under the Family and Medical Leave Act. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers have a right to see documented proof of a worker's illness or handicap as it relates to a request for a reasonable accommodation. In addition, only the company HR professional or appropriate administrative personnel may follow up with health-care providers to obtain information regarding the proof. Any contact made by HR personnel must be limited to this purpose.

Returning to Work

    When you return to work, your employer may request further documentation of your condition and your ability to return and perform the tasks required of you. Descriptions of your illness or injury, and your state of well-being written by the attending physician are often requested. Employers are within their rights to ensure that you have been cleared by a medical professional and it is safe for you to resume your duties.

Legal Trouble

    Although an employer is free to require documentation for all absences due to illness, he may not dismiss you due to your medical condition or handicap. By law your employer may not discriminate against you for reasons of race, religion, physical handicap, medical restriction or other cause if and when he decides to terminate your position. If you are dismissed from work due to illness, injury or physical conditions that are out of your control, you may be able to fight the dismissal in court based on its unfair nature.

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