Can an employer call your doctor? Calling an employee’s doctor is a rare practice for employers.
What will I learn?
- When Can An Employer Call Your Doctor?
- When Can An Employer Not Call Your Doctor?
- When Can An Employer Request Medical Information?
- Why Is Medical Information Of Employees Important?
- Final Word:
They may do this to find out about an employee’s health. Or they may need to verify that the employee can return to work after an illness.
When Can An Employer Call Your Doctor?
However, it is illegal for an employer to call an employee’s doctor without permission.
This would be a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
If an employer wants to call your doctor, here’s how he can do it:
1. You Give Written Consent:
The best way for an employer to call your doctor is if you give written consent.
This means that you sign a release form. It gives the employer permission to speak with your doctor about your health.
The release form should be very specific. It should say exactly what information the employer can get and why he needs it.
For instance, the form might say that the employer can get information about your ability to do your job.
Or, it might say that the employer can get information about a work-related injury.
2. You Can Choose Time Limit:
The release form should also say how long the employer can have the information.
For instance, it might say that the employer can have the information for one year.
You can put a time limit on the release form if you want. For instance, you can say that the employer can only have the information for six months.
Or, you can say that the employer can have the information until you say stop.
This limit is to protect your privacy. Your employer does not need to have your medical information forever.
3. You Can Choose How Much Information He Gets:
If you give an employer permission to call your doctor, he can usually only get limited information.
For instance, the doctor can confirm that you have a certain condition.
But the doctor cannot give the employer details about your treatment or prognosis.
Or, the doctor might be able to tell the employer how long you have been under treatment.
Also, the employer cannot ask the doctor for a second opinion.
For instance, if you have cancer, the employer cannot ask the doctor if you will be able to work full-time.
4. Be Careful What You Sign:
Don’t sign a release form that is too broad. You might accidentally give an employer permission to get the information you did not intend to share.
For instance, you might permit to get information about mental health conditions.
Signing a release form does not mean giving the employer all of your medical records.
You can ask the doctor only to give the employer specific information. Such as whether you can perform your job’s essential functions.
5. You Give Verbal Consent:
If you can’t or don’t want to sign a release form, you can give the employer verbal consent.
You tell the employer that he can speak with your doctor. You should do this in writing. That way, you have proof that you gave your permission.
Also, ensure that you only give verbal consent for the specific things you want the employer to know.
For example, you have a disability. You might give your employer permission to speak with your doctor about accommodations.
But, you might not want to get information about your diagnosis.
6. The Law Protects You From Discrimination:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from discrimination in the workplace.
This includes asking for medical information before you get a job offer.
The ADA also requires employers to keep medical information confidential.
And it limits how much information an employer can ask for from your doctor.
When Can An Employer Not Call Your Doctor?
Your employer can’t ask your doctor for any medical information when:
1. You Denied Any Consent:
You can deny the consent of your employer to get information from your doctor.
If you do this, your employer can’t ask for the information again. They can not take any action against you.
Legally, your employer can’t even ask you why you denied consent. They may, however, ask you if you have a disability.
In that case, you can choose whether to answer or not. For instance, you may want to tell your employer that you have a disability. So they can make accommodations for you at work.
2. You Withdrew Consent:
You can withdraw your consent at any time. However, if you do this, your employer must stop asking your doctor for information.
And an employer can’t take action against you for denying or withdrawing consent. But they may be able to if you fail to provide information important to your job.
For example, your ability to do a job safely. This happens in jobs like air traffic control, where not being able to see clearly could put lives at risk.
3. You Gave Limited Consent:
You may have given your employer consent to speak to your doctor only about certain things.
For example, your employer may have asked your doctor whether you can lift heavy objects at work.
Your employer can’t ask your doctor for information outside the scope of that consent.
For example, they can’t ask about your mental health. Or whether you’re taking medication.
When Can An Employer Request Medical Information?
Here are some examples of when an employer can request medical information:
1. After Job Offer:
After you receive a job offer, an employer can ask you to take a medical exam.
The employer can withdraw the job offer if you do not pass the exam. These exams usually test for things like:
The employer must allow you to explain any medical conditions in the exam.
2. During Employment:
Have you been absent for more than three consecutive days.? Your employer may ask you for medical certification from your doctor.
The certification must state that you can return to work. Your employer may also ask you to take a “fitness for duty” examination.
That is to believe that you cannot do your job because of a medical condition.
3. When There Is A Workplace Injury:
Your employer may require you to see a doctor of your choice after a workplace injury.
The workers’ compensation system also has rules about which doctors you can see.
Although, the employer can not force you to see a specific doctor. But it is necessary to get the treatment you need to get better.
4. If You Use Sick Leave:
If you use paid sick leave, your employer may require you to provide a note from a doctor. The rules for this vary by employer and state.
Sometimes, your employer may require a note even if you don’t use sick leave.
Or, a policy may allow them to require a note after you’ve been sick for a certain number of days.
5. For Leave Under The Family And Medical Leave Act:
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of leave for medical conditions.
You’ll need a medical certification from a health care provider to get FMLA to leave.
This certification must state that you have a serious health condition. And, thus, you need leave.
And if your employer has 50 or more employees, you’ll also need to have worked for the company for at least 12 months.
Why Is Medical Information Of Employees Important?
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.
To do this, the ADA says employers can ask employees about their health. And they can request medical examinations.
This information is important for many reasons:
1. Can Employee Do The Job:
Employers ask for medical information is to determine if an employee can do a job.
For example, imagine that an employee has cancer. The employer might ask for medical information to determine if the employee can still do the job.
2. Decide If An Accommodation Is Needed:
Another reason employers ask for medical information is for accommodation.
For example, imagine that an employee has diabetes. The employer might need determine if the employee needs a break to take insulin.
3. Return To Work Plans:
Sometimes, employees must take time off work because of a health condition.
When they are ready to return to work, the employer might ask for medical information.
This is so that the employer can develop a return-to-work plan. For example, the plan might include accommodations. Such as flexible hours or working from home.
4. To Understand An Employee’s Health Condition:
Employers might also ask for medical information to understand an employee’s health condition.
For example, an employer might ask for information about an employee’s depression.
The employer might want to know more about the employee’s symptoms. And how they affect the workplace.
5. Changes In An Employee’s Health Condition:
Employers may ask for the information if there is a change in an employee’s health condition.
For example, an employer might ask for information about an employee’s cancer treatment.
Or, an employer might ask for information about an employee’s pregnancy.
So can an employer call your doctor? In most cases, the answer is no. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
You may give your employer permission to speak with your doctor. Or, your employer might have a legitimate business reason.
If you’re unsure whether your employer can call your doctor, it’s best to ask them directly.
You can also contact an experienced employment law attorney for more information.
Last Updated on 1 month by Shahzaib Arshad
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