Good afternoon Cindy,
I'm sorry to hear of your dilemma.
As a general rule, yes, unless you have provided your employer with a written authorization allowing them to speak with your physician regarding your need to be out of work, your physician's discussion of your medical condition would be in violation of HIPAA regulations.
Employers do have the right to verify time off which might be afforded under the rules of the Family Medical Leave Act though. It may be through this method that they are seeking information.
While your employer or your employer's agent has a right to confirm with your physician the medical reasons for your need and us of leave under the FMLA, you are under no obligation to sign a general medical records release for either of them.
Under the FMLA, employers can request medical certification when employees request/or take leave. The employer should request only information available in the Department of Labor´s (DOL) Medical Certification Statement (Form WH-380), and its health care provider may contact the worker´s health care provider, with the employee´s permission, for clarification.
The DOL´s form limits the employer´s access to information from the health care provider to what is relevant to the employee´s current serious health condition. This may include the following items:
1. The medical facts that support the determination that the condition fulfills the FMLA´s criteria of a serious medical condition;
2. The date the medical condition began and the expected duration of the condition;
3. Whether leave will be intermittent or on a reduced leave schedule;
4. The duration of the leave;
5. If the serious medical condition is pregnancy or a chronic condition, whether the patient is presently incapacitated and the duration and frequency of episodes of incapacity; and
6. If additional treatments are required, an estimate of the probable number of such treatments.
The FMLA does not provide the employer with broad discretion to seek the release of information from the employee´s health care provider. Under the statute, an employer may not acquire the employee´s medical records or a summary medical report that contains any information beyond that set out in the DOL´s sample certification form.
If your primary goal is to return to the classroom, then you might consider contacting your physician and providing them with the authorization to discuss your limitations with your employer.
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