Q. When an employee calls off sick for more than one day, is there a minimum amount of days off required before an employer can ask for a doctor’s note? Can we ask the specific reason for the absence? — Joe, Pennsylvania
A. No, there is no minimum or even generally accepted minimum number of days an employer must wait before it asks an employee to provide documentation that he or she missed work because of illness.
Most employer policies do not require a doctor’s note when an employee takes a sick day because so few of us actually consult a physician when we are ill with a cold or the flu. That said, when an employer becomes suspicious that an employee may be abusing its sick leave policy, individual employees may be directed to bring a doctor’s note to excuse their absences.
If the employee calls off sick for three or more days, many employers sendto the employee because one definition of “serious health condition” under that law is that the individual is unable to work for three or more days because of one’s own or a covered family member’s serious health condition. If the employee does not complete the paperwork, the leave may not be considered job-protected.
Remember, you are limited in what you can ask employees about medical conditions if you are gathering information under the Learn how to legally collect FMLA medical info.). (
Finally, keep in mind that in an increasing number of jurisdictions, employees may be entitled to paid sick leave to care not only for themselves but for family members who fall ill. In that case, you are looking to gather evidence that the family member was sick.