California Employment Law
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HIPAA does not specifically address "return to work notes," and these would not be exempt under HIPAA from the requirement that the disclosure be authorized by the patient. That is, the provider, who is a covered entity, would need your written permission to release any information to your employer.
However, employment law varies from state to state, and HIPAA doesn't address employee health records. Therefore, while your physician is not allowed to release information to your employer without your written permission (unless you have a workers' compensation claim, and then only information directly pertaining to the injury may be released), nothing in HIPAA forbids employers (who are not covered entities) from asking you to provide that written permission and/or diagnosis information to authorize the use of sick leave.
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