Requiring employees to provide a doctor’s note in order to qualify for paid sick leave has become a practice among a number of employers in recent years. But companies should exercise care in administering this type of policy. 

In 2012, Dillard’s settled a lawsuit with the EEOC (EEOC v. Dillard's, Inc., et al, Case No. 08-CV-1780) for $2 million.  The EEOC claimed Dillard’s sick leave policy, which required employees to bring a doctor’s note to be eligible for paid sick leave, violated the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The employer’s policy required specific medical information, including the exact nature of the medical condition that necessitated the employee’s absence. The agency contended that this violated ADA’s prohibition against medical inquiries unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

If your company has such a policy, it should be reviewed and revised.  Instead of asking for specific medical information, your policy should only require that the doctor’s note document the employee was unable to work due to a medical condition.  Similarly, if you require an employee to report that he or she is taking medication that may impair their ability to perform their job, you should only ask that they advise you of this and not require them to provide you the name of the medication or the medical condition that requires them to take it.

Information about medical inquiries and the Americans with Disabilities Act can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.

Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. www.eafinc.org or [email protected]

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