Q: How many days can you be absent from work before your employer can request a doctor’s note?
A: Your employer has some discretion with developing their own internal policy on when they can request a doctor’s note to explain an employee’s absence. At this time, there is no federal or state law that details a specific number of days that an employee can be absent from work before an employer may lawfully request a doctor’s note.
According to Attorney Jeffrey A. Dretler, Partner of the Employment Law Group of Prince Lobel Glovsky & Tye LLP, there are “federal and state laws which provide guidance on the circumstances and manner in which an employer may request medical documentation from an employee.”
If an employee is requesting a leave of absence under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) due to her own or a family member’s serious health condition, a medical certification from the employee’s health care provider may be required by the employer (regardless of the anticipated length of the leave). Dretler also adds:
Recent amendments to the FMLA regulations (effective January 2009) limit the scope of the request to the information required on the health care certification form; provide that any direct contact between the employer and the employee’s health care provider be made by a human resources or other administrative person and not the employee’s direct supervisor; and limit the frequency with which an employer may request updated information. An employee seeking a leave of absence, modified job duties or other ‘reasonable accommodation’ under Massachusetts or federal handicap discrimination laws (Chapter 151B or the Americans with Disabilities Act) may also be required to submit medical documentation which substantiates the need for the accommodation. Further, employees may be required to submit medical documentation to obtain clearance to return to work after a leave of absence of any length (i.e., fitness for duty exams or documentation).
An employee using sick time from a PTO bank or from their sick time accrued, may still be subject to the employer’s own policies and procedures regarding the need for a doctor’s note. An employer should limit its request to only that information reasonably necessary to address the situation at hand. Employers should also be careful to request these notes on a uniform basis. Employers need to ensure that they are applying the policy in a non-discriminatory way (e.g., asking women for doctor’s note consistently but only requiring a doctor’s notes from men on occasion.)
The author is solely responsible for the content.
about this blog
e-mail your question
Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.