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Horrible Company Policy Alert: Some Employers Require Doctor’s Notes for Sick Days

Have you ever thought to yourself, "This is a pretty good job, but it could be better, if only my employer would treat me more like a child"? If not, you'll probably be less than impressed to hear that at some companies, only a doctor-excused absence will do, when it comes to using that sick time. (Whether or not you have any sick time to start out with, of course, is another thing entirely.)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This is a pretty good job, but it could be better, if only my employer would treat me more like a child”? If not, you’ll probably be less than impressed to hear that at some companies, only a doctor-excused absence will do, when it comes to using that sick time. (Whether or not you have any sick time to start out with, of course, is another thing entirely.)

sneeze 

(Photo Credit: mcfarlandmo/Flickr)

In a recent thread on Reddit, a user claimed that his friend’s workplace required a doctor’s note, if workers call in sick. The provided note — which may or may not be genuine — could serve as a template for harried GPs looking to save a little time while keeping their patients from losing their jobs over a sniffle:

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doctors note 

(Source: eagle66/Reddit)

Whether or not the actual note is real, the story is rooted in fact: generally speaking, in most places in the US, your employer can ask you for a doctor’s note to verify sick leave.

“Very little law exists to require employers to do anything or prohibit employers from doing anything with respect to paid sick leave,” writes Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD, at Medscape. “No federal law addresses paid sick leave.”

The Department of Labor’s website also confirms that employers can ask workers to provide a sick note (although it urges companies to use discretion before requiring notes during a pandemic, when doctor’s resources are already stretched thin).

Even With a Note, No Guarantees

Furthermore, even if you have a doctor’s note, your job isn’t necessarily safe.

“If you’re out sick for a day with, say, a cold or something minor, you have zero legal protection,” writes legal blogger Donna Ballman, JD, at AOL Jobs. “The laws that protect you for illness only protect you if you have a serious medical condition or an illness relating to a disability. Doctor’s note or no, if you live anywhere but Montana you’re in an at-will state, meaning you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. That includes being sick.”

Know Your Rights

But, that doesn’t mean that your employer can do whatever they want, with respect to sick leave requirements. If you suffer from a disability that requires you to be absent from work occasionally, your boss can’t require you to disclose details about your medical issue, unless it’s related to your job.

“Sure, asking for a doctor’s note is, for the most part, legal — but demanding a prying doctor’s note isn’t,” writes Aditi Mukherji, JD, at FindLaw. “Requiring too much information from employees for sick leave can land employers in legal trouble.”

Furthermore, Mukherji writes, the policy needs to be uniformly applied. If your boss hounds you for a sick note, but lets your co-worker off scot-free, he or she is breaking the law.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the weirdest company policy you’ve ever had to deal with? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Paula
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Paula

I called off work today sore throat headache from he’ll coughing and low fever. I work in a motel didn’t want to spread it around. I don’t call off hardly ever sick or in pain or whatever but when I can’t get out of bed I can’t be productive. Any way my boss said “She let me call off today but I had give up one of my scheduled days off.” I don’t think that is fair to punish me because I’m sick

Jade Li
Guest
Jade Li

p.s. To previous comment: Son did not go to work. He visited the doctor the next day and got his note. Fortunately he has good health insurance thru my spouse’s workplace; however many restaurant workers don’t. Not only must they face the difficult decision of whether or not to spread germs at work, & not get paid; they must also often use their own money to get the doctor’s note.

Shouldn’t this be illegal in the situation of restaurant and other food-handling work?

Colin Nethery
Guest
Colin Nethery

So my name is Colin. I work for FedEx ground out of Maryland. I’ve been there for a year-and-a-half. And I went to go get two of my back molars removed today with my doctor had written me a note to take today tomorrow and Thursday off I mean Wednesday off. Another words I would come back to work on Thursday I sent this new to my employers and they threaten me with losing my job and furthermore that they could fire me at any given time regardless of a doctor’s note or not. I don’t find it at all… Read more »

Ron
Guest
Ron

The reason companies do this and have policies like this is not because of the good employees. It is because of the bad ones who will take advantage of a situation. All laws/rules both in government and in companies exist for pretty much the same reason. Don’t blame the company. Blame the lousy worker next to you.

MissyP
Guest
MissyP

Can an employer tell you that you have to go to an urgent care facility instead of your family Dr? I made a Dr appt and my supervisor told me to go to an urgent care. That cost me more money out of pocket, like $50 more. I said no. now I’m worried I’ll get in trouble.

Lynsey Kelly
Guest
Lynsey Kelly

Can a company that does not provide health insurance or sick leave require a doctor’s note for one day call in, tell you that you must go to a clinic that costs $175, then when you do not because that’s more than you make in 2 days, suspend you for 2 days without pay, and possibly fire you? This does not add up to me!

Mary
Guest
Mary

The odd thing at my company is that while our regional manager (the boss) doesn’t ask for doctors notes, one of the shift managers does. Just one. If it’s not company policy, why is he asking for it?

maria
Guest
maria

thank you’

Jozzy
Guest
Jozzy

Years ago I had an employer who did not want to deny anyone’s vacation request. Therefore, we had to ask for permission to ask for vacation, if the request was granted, we then formally requested vacation. She thought by adding this extra step, she would not be denying a vacation request, only denying the opportunity to request vacation. Our labor union negotiated an end to that foolishness.

Shaun
Guest
Shaun

If only the were more labor unions

Jaysin
Guest
Jaysin

I got written up even though I had a sick note cause of cancer. Is that legal?

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

I am off work with a documented workmens comp claim, and am being paid. Whenever I see my Dr., I go see my boss and take him the Dr.s excuse that states I am still not well enough to come back to work. He has called me twice and indicated I have been off since 12-25-15 and he mentioned light duty Which we don’t even have. He has also discussed my medical leave with fellow employees and stated he does not know why I don’t quit. obviously I cant quit because of my claim.

Amber561
Guest
Amber561

Oh and Missy, a doctors note is a doctors note regardless. Maybe they were suggesting a walk in assuming it will be convenient with no appointments necessary. Definitely not convenient to your pocket though!! Hope all went well

Amber561
Guest
Amber561

I’m 15 weeks pregnant and believe I’m also now suffering from IBS. Last night and this morning, I’ve been having unbearable cramping and nausea. I let my employer know this morning right when I woke up about my pains and that I would not be able to make it in. I also found someone to cover my shift. However, she told me that I will need a doctors note (on a Saturday) to return back to work. I don’t have a vehicle. ( I walk to work; she knows this) so if course my only option is to wait and… Read more »

karma fi
Guest
karma fi

The bigger deal here is that: 1. Companies run lean, so they expect everyone to show up all the time. 2. One person takes off sick, they don’t have a replacement, they get mad and take it out on the worker who needed time off. I had this happen first-hand working McDonalds a while ago. I was out because I SEVERELY injured myself on a Friday and was due to open on a Saturday. Called in 30 minutes before shift because I sincerely tried to get to work. Weeks later, my hours had been cut to a minimum. I showed… Read more »

Ray
Guest
Ray

How can you get fired if you have a doctor’s note saying light duty but not stay home? My friend handed her doctors note to HR and they terminated her 4 hrs later

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

I had to get a doctor’s note BEFORE I could even take the day off. I called and gave 12 hours notice I wouldn’t be there. I already knew I had conjunctivitis. It’s highly contagious. The owner of the company called back 4 hours later. He demanded a doctor’s note before I even missed my shift, and it was in case I didn’t do it and they had to fire me. They needed adequate time to replace me in case of firing, so I needed to go do it right away. I ended up having to go to a doctor’s… Read more »

Wayne
Guest
Wayne

Legally speaking, your employer is actually only allowed to ask for a doctors not after missing three or more days. No one is required to provide a note for missing one day

John
Guest
John

That’s not true, legally speaking. It isn’t technically either legal or illegal; it would be illegal if doctor’s notes weren’t consistently demanded for every call-off from every person. If the request is targeted or discriminatory, then it’s illegal–but that’s difficult to prove if the company has a standardized policy requiring doctor’s notes.

Jane wilkinson
Guest
Jane wilkinson

I have been with this company 11 years I never call off I was sick yesterday and I received nothing but grieve my lead text me and stated that our manager wanted a doctors note before I returned to work in 3 days no one else has had to get a drs note I couldn’t get into to see a doctor on short notice I’m starting to feel better like most people who can try to recoup after a day or two I will go to the doctor if I can get in or else an urgent care and pay… Read more »

Carel
Guest
Carel

I just don’t know what to do anymore my work has a system where they give you a total of 8 points a year. You get one point if you miss a day and half a point if you’re late and I got points for days that my boss told me not to come in I also got points for days where I was in the hospital for a condition that I recently got diagnosed with and when I was on my way to the hospital my boss saw me and try to say that I wasn’t sick or something… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I got injured during working hours here in the state of California. I sprained my foot coming down a ladder now I was afraid to tell my supervisor that this accident happen during work because they would ask me if I needed medical attention. If I do end up getting medical attention the doctor would give me some time off and if I get sick time off the company would come back and give me points. After 6 points I get determinated. I have used my 3 sick days without a doctor’s note so now if I get hurt at… Read more »

MOSES SAYPLAY
Guest
MOSES SAYPLAY

I had a work injure that got worst over time from the way my employer handle it. My pain was unbearable one-day I had to go to the ER, the doctor prescribe me some medicine that my body reacted to negatively and cause me to missed few days from. I tried getting in contact with the doctor a few time to ask why I was feeling these effects but was unsuccessful. I returned to work and was ask for excuse of those days. I went back to the hospital but the nurses told me the doctor can’t write me excuse… Read more »

Beatrice
Guest
Beatrice

I got fired from my job for missing one day of work because I was sick. I am 18 and a senior in high school and work on the weekends. I went to work on Saturday even though I wasn’t feeling well. My manger asked if I was alright and I told her it was probably allergics. The next day I took off because my nose was running so much and I keep sneezing and coughing ? I didn’t want to make food sick. I forgot to say I work at a fast food restaurant. So I called and told… Read more »

Leslie Richmond
Guest
Leslie Richmond

My job offers sick leave, yet when I was sent home because I was sick, by my boss, I did not receive it on my check. When I asked why, they said that I did not fill out the correct paper work to get it. Is this legal? when they sent me home????

John Stickles
Guest
John Stickles

Hello all, I started work for a company and for the first 8 months i was never told there was any sick policies or told about any handbook. Also i was never trained on anything regarding my job like department rules, expectations, when i get paid and oddly never trained on computer programs that we use! I was smart enough to pick up on how to do it myself. My Mom was dying of cancer so a few days i had to leave early and i was out a few days. My boss didn’t seem to mind so i thought… Read more »

Doctor notes
Guest
Doctor notes

What is actually require on the note Its self.

Are Physicians names required and why?

Companies can not call and confirm the appointment nor can the physician say your their paitient.

SharonGA
Guest
SharonGA

My employer asks whats wrong and then grills you on every little detail. Sometimes I feel violated with the questions they want answers to. I have had to take my doctors excuse back to my doctor 3x because it didn’t say what they wanted it to say. Last time I was rear ended as I was go back to the doctor to get the excuse rewritten.

Paula
Guest
Paula

I called off work today sore throat headache from he’ll coughing and low fever. I work in a motel didn’t want to spread it around. I don’t call off hardly ever sick or in pain or whatever but when I can’t get out of bed I can’t be productive. Any way my boss said “She let me call off today but I had give up one of my scheduled days off.” I don’t think that is fair to punish me because I’m sick

Jorge
Guest
Jorge

If you have a condition that keeps coming back. Get F.M.L.A ! You get 14 weeks of medical leave per year. Ask your doctor. Your employer has to honer it !!!

Jane wilkinson
Guest
Jane wilkinson

I have been with this company 11 years I never call off I was sick yesterday and I received nothing but grieve my lead text me and stated that our manager wanted a doctors note before I returned to work in 3 days no one else has had to get a drs note I couldn’t get into to see a doctor on short notice I’m starting to feel better like most people who can try to recoup after a day or two I will go to the doctor if I can get in or else an urgent care and pay… Read more »

Nicole
Guest
Nicole

Kevin, I also suffer from a vestibular disorder and am going through something very similar. All I can do is stay home when I am having a bout of it. The whole note thing is so ridiculous I don’t even have the words to express how asinine such a policy is. I am baffled by companies stupid policies.

kevin
Guest
kevin

I have a question. I work in Kansas, a right-to-work state. Since I was a young teen I have suffered from BPPV (positional vertigo). It’s debilitating when it hits and I’m almost always relegated to bed until it goes away. And I never know when it’s going to hit. I’ve worked for my company for six years now. I’ve had to use sick leave many times because of this and was never required or asked to provide a doctor’s note until today. I wasalso informed it will be that way from now on. I know for a fact that doctor’s… Read more »

Johnny V.
Guest
Johnny V.

I have a question hopefully someone can answer it. I hurt myself outside of work I’ve been going to work hurt for 4 days now. Today my boss said that I can’t come into work on Monday without a doctors note or clearance to work. He’s allowed me to come to work all week knowing I was hurt but yet he doesn’t want me coming in on Monday without a note. Can he do that?

Jade Li
Guest
Jade Li

My son works part-time in a restaurant as a dishwasher. Last week he was truly sick, mostly throwing up. The policy at his workplace — must have a doctor’s note to be allowed that (unpaid) time off. Keep in mind, this is a RESTAURANT, with no benefits, no sick days, and pay is $8/hr. I would think and hope that PUBLIC SAFETY would be foremost here, but it’s not. This rule provides incentive for employees to come in sick and potentially infect others in the restaurant. Would YOU want to eat in such a restaurant? Because of this, it is… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Grow up. You don’t sound like a mother, you sound like a child.

Frostbite
Guest
Frostbite

I actually don’t care. When I’m sick and they need verification, I’ll come in and and make everybody verify it with me. Don’t blame the company, right? Blame that bad worker. Good excuse. Enjoy the viruses.

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