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What is a manager allowed to ask about your health condition?

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Question: “Is it a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy violation for your employer to ask for your diagnosis on your excused absence letter from your physician?” – J., Texas

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark May 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

We take a very conservative approach since this law is so relatively new that not a lot of case law has moved through the courts yet. If someone calls in sick, we don’t ask what they have. If they voluntarily mention it (“I have the flu, I can’t come in”), we do not tell any co-workers unless the person says it’s okay to tell others (“I have the flu; it’s okay to let others know since they might want to use bacterial wipes all over my work area”). If someone turns in an excused absence note, we don’t question why, we just file it. The only time we have ever questioned someone was once when someone was out on disability for an awfully long time considering her alleged situation. We insisted on our right to a second medical opinion (paid for by us) and within days she was back at work.

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Barbara McKee May 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

It becomes a HIPPA violation if the manager attempts to obtain that information on their own. If you are asked the question it is your choice to answer or not.

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Constance May 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Your manager may not ask. But you likely will be required to have your health care provider submit this form to your company’s leave coordinator: http://www.dol.gov/whd/forms/WH-380-E.pdf

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Julie May 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Yes. The employer has no right to any of your medical information. The doctor writes that you were unable to work and that’s the end of it.
(I worked hospitals for years.)

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Gloria May 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

HR at 3 different firms informed me it is against the law for a manager to ask your condition or to include it on a doctor’s note because it could open the company up to risk if the employee feels discriminated against. The manager doesn’t need to know what you’re being treated for. They just need to know that you saw a doctor and under that physican’s care and if you’re out of the office, the dates are given. That’s it. I already had to update one HR rep about this and then her manager came back and corrected her for asking stating the same thing I stated above.

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