Does an employer have the right to question a physician about prescription medications an employee has been prescribed?

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Does an employer have the right to question a physician about prescription medications an employee has been prescribed?

A city employee was accused of selling a prescription drug. The chief of police went to the employee’s physician and asked about the prescriptions and medical reasons involving the employee’s being prescribed. Is this legal?

Asked on October 29, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If it's a police investigation because of a suspected crime, then it's not a matter of the "employer" questioning the medication--even if the employer were the police department itself. The police have a right to investigate suspected crimes; whether or not the physician has to respond will depend upon the circumstances and whether there is good grounds to breach doctor-patient confidentiality, but whether or not the physican respondes doesn't affect the right of the police to ask.

For that matter, if an employer suspects something untoward happening at work, the employer may in fact ask the employee's physician about a prescription. The physican probably will not and should not answer, not without the employee's permission, owing to confidentiality; but again, there is nothing wrong in asking.


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