does an employer have a right to ask about your symptoms after you call in sick?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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does an employer have a right to ask about your symptoms after you call in sick?

My wife called in sick for 2 days in a row. Her supervisor called midday the second day she was out and asked what her symptoms were. They were legitimate symptoms my wife told her and the supervisor took her off the schedule for 2 more days without pay.

Asked on December 6, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, your employer is allowed to ask you questions about an illness after calling in sick. The fact is that your illness could have ramifications for your company regarding the health and safety of the workplace. For example, a co-worker could be handling heavy machinery and could injure themselves or others if become disoriented due to the symptoms of the flu or other illness.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they do, because the symptoms could represent either a threat to co-worker or customer health (e.g. flu symptoms), or to the employee's own safety or ability to safely do his/her job (e.g. dizziness in someone who has to climb ladders or drive a vehicle). A company is allowed to inquire into illness since it can affect health, safety, or liability.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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