What Information Can an Employer Ask for in a Sick Note?

Written by Dr. Ryner Lai
June 21, 2021

If you have to take time off from work due to illness, your employer may ask you for a sick note from your doctor that verifies your condition. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if your employer is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain health conditions for either you or your immediate family. 


However, you might want certain health conditions to be kept private. Just how does a sick note work in applying for medical leave, and what kind of information can your employer request to be included? 


Medical Leave Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 

If your employer is under the FMLA, you can claim medical leave if you have a serious health condition that causes you to be unable to perform your job responsibilities. This includes incapacity due to pregnancy or prenatal medical care. 


You are also entitled to apply for medical leave if you have a close family member that has a serious health condition. That family member can be your spouse, children, or parents. 


What exactly is considered “a serious health condition”? FMLA states that “a serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.” It doesn’t cover common medical conditions like an upset stomach or routine medical checkups. 


What Your Employer Can Ask For 

In certain circumstances, your employer can ask for certification that supports the reasons for your leave application. If your employer requests certification from you, it is your responsibility to provide a complete certification within 15 calendar days, barring any exceptional circumstances. It is your responsibility to seek a healthcare provider to provide the certification requested. 


Your employer has the right to contact the healthcare provider to clarify or authenticate the certification, or request a 2nd (or 3rd) medical opinion, at the employer’s own expense. However, your employer may not inquire about the specific medical condition of the employee due to HIPAA privacy laws–unless the employee waives these rights.


After the certification process is complete, your employer is required to notify you whether your leave is covered under FMLA. Your employer has the right to deny your FMLA application if you do not provide complete certification as requested. A certification is considered incomplete if any applicable entries are not completed; it is considered insufficient if the information provided is too vague. 


The most important elements of a sick note are the information that establishes the medical necessity of your medical leave, as well as an estimation of the dates or duration of which your medical leave is necessary. 


You can find the full employer’s guide to the FMLA here


Getting a Doctor’s Note Online with QuickMD 

Did you know that you can have a virtual consultation with a licensed physician to obtain a doctor’s note online? Book an online consultation today. Shortly after your consultation, you will be emailed your work note if you qualify for one. Otherwise, your visit is free.

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