Can employers ask an employee what is wrong with them when you call in sick? I know they can ask for a doctor’s statement to return to work but can they ask for details? It was the 2nd time calling in sick in four months with a doctor’s statement brought in the first time.

Posted 10-08-2008

Ann Kiernan responds:

There are a couple of laws that may come into play – the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, HIPAA which guards medical privacy, and state laws regarding general privacy and medical privacy. In general, employers should not ask for details. If someone calls in sick, they’re sick – you don’t need to know how or why. The employer can require a doctor’s note, as long as it is done consistently with all employees, and if a serious health condition is involved, charge the time against the employee’s annual FMLA entitlement. By the way, calling in sick two times in four months does not seem excessive.

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