The right way to check validity of doctor’s note

Q. Our company requires a doctor’s note for employees who are out sick more than two days. Sometimes the notes look like something the cat dragged in. Can we call the doctor’s office to simply verify the note is real? — E.W., Pennsylvania

A. You’re playing with fire! Without obtaining HIPAA-compliant authorization, you shouldn’t ask for any information from your employee’s doctor. As a general matter, it’s risky to have direct contact with your employee’s doctor because you could learn more than you should know. The best practice in these cases is to require your employee to go back to the doctor and obtain the required medical documentation for you.