Does a doctor’s note excuse you from work?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Does a doctor’s note excuse you from work?

My employer said that I am able to take off of work as long as I provide a doctors note once I did take 2 days off for medical reasons she said that the company doesn’t expect doctors noted nor or are my note doctor notes I provided in the pass excused

Asked on March 28, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not to accept a doctor's note as an excuse for absence from work is typically at the discretion of an employer. The fact is that companies can impose disciplinary action for absences even when an employee presents a a doctor's note.
If an employee qualifies for medical leave under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), they must notify their employer of their status. While employees are not required to provide copies of medical records or otherwise disclose details about their injuries/illnesses, an employer does have the right to ask an employee to provide medical proof, typically a note from a doctor, that proves the existence of the problem.
Some injuries and illnesses prevent a worker from being able to perform their duties. In those cases, an employer must decide if if a temporary layoff or permanent dismissal is necessary. In such a case, a doctor's note might not make a difference in the employer's decision. The fact is that majority of states have "at will" employment which means that an employer has the right to fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all, as long as discrimination isn't a factor in the firing or it does not violate the terms of a union agreement or employment contract. As a result, an employers can fire an employee with or without a doctor's note.
That having been said, an employer cannot termiate an employee because they filed a workers' compensation claim, as long as they can perform their job duties. Additionally, if the injury/illness is legally documented to be a permanent disability, an employer must make "reasonable accomodations" to assist an employee if they can still perform the major reponsibilities of their job, according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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