As an employer, is it legal to contact an employee’s doctor’s office to verify a doctor’s note that said employee gave to me?

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As an employer, is it legal to contact an employee’s doctor’s office to verify a doctor’s note that said employee gave to me?

Is it illegal to contact a employee’s doctor to verify a doctors note given by said employee?

Asked on January 8, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There are two different issues here:

1) Is it illegal for the employer to contact the doctor and ask about the note or indeed about a medical condition? No--anyone may essentially ask anyone anything, and employers are allowed to seek to verify medical or sick leave, restrictions on work, etc. However, asking doesn't always mean you'll get an answer, as per below.

2) Can the doctor verify the note or the condition? The doctor can probably say something like, "Yes, I wrote John/Jane Doe a note dated 12/16/11 for his/her employer." However, it is almost certainly the case that the doctor may not actually discuss the patient's medical history or condition otherwise, without the patient (the employee) instructing the doctor to do so--doctor-patient confidentiality and various laws about medical privacy limit what a doctor can or should say about patients without their explicit permission or consent.

So you can contact the doctor; you can't force them to say anything if they don't want to; and the most you can reasonably expect to get from them is a verification of the fact that they provided a note.


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