Can an employer get information on an employees family member who was taken to the ER hospital?

My mom was brought into the emergency room on the 25th at 3 am. I live an hour away and went to the hospital to be with my mom. I notified my place of work that I would need the day off on the 25th and possibly on the 26th, depending on how my mother was doing. The owner replied got a replied that I was given the OK, and wished me good luck. However, at 4 pm on the 25th my general manager called and said she had called the hospital in regarding my mother’s symptoms and that she was told unless it was a major heart attack, they would have sent my mom home the same day. Therefore, I was expected to be at work on the 26th. My employers never tried to contract me for any type of proof to bring them (i.e. a doctor’s note, etc). I have called the hospital and they have no record of the call. I am wondering if it’s legal what my employer did or what I can do about it? I found it very offensive that they wouldn’t contact me for information first. They apparently called a hospital an hour away that my mother has never been to.

Asked on March 26, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is unusual, and we understand why it feels wrong to you, but it is legal for the employer to call. Any person may call any hospital or doctor to ask a question about any patient or about symptoms and treatment generally. The hospital or doctor doesn't have to answer and could certainly have refused to answer, but that doesn't change the fact that the employer has the legal right to place the call and ask the question.


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