Can your employer ask you about the circumstances of your medical leave?

I am currently on medical leave due to stess leave. My doctors note says, due to

illness. Then my HR person asked me what kind of illness and later asked if I my

illness was contagious. Is this legal to ask?

Asked on May 2, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) While they can't ask for lots of details, they can ask in general terms what the illness or condition is, to see that would be something that would be covered by their sick leave policy. So if you have a medical diagnosis of depression or a heart condition (either brought on or exacerabated by stress) which requires leave, for example, that's all they need to know--that there is a specific medical diagnosis in which a doctor recommends leave. They can't judge it or pry into the diagnosis: it would be enough that there is a diagnosis. However, they are allowed to get the specific condition or diagnosis, because they can satisfy themselves that there is *some* medical condition. "Stress" is not a medical condition and does not justify medical leave by itself; and "illness" is not specific enough to justify leave, since there are many illnesses (e.g. IBS or many forms of osteoarthritis) that do not require medical leave. So they can get more than just "illness" as an answer.
2) They can ask whether something is contagous, because they are allowed to look to protect coworkers or customers/clients.


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