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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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As an employer, if my employee informs me of a sudden need

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As an employer, if my employee informs me of a sudden need for time off from work for a doctor's appointment and arranges coverage, do I have the right to call the doctor's office to confirm this?
Thank you for your question today, I look forward to assisting you. I bring nearly 20 years of legal experience in various disciplines.

You can request a doctor's note from the employee. Calling the doctor will likely not net you any information, because of the HIPAA laws against disclosing the medical information of their patients.

If the employee obtains you a note from the doctor, he/she will be giving permission to the doctor to disclose.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I was given this information because I am also the employees referring physician to this office.

The other doctor is still under HIPAA law.

Now, while most referring physicians have the ability to contact the referred to doctor for medical purposes (further treatment), that would not be your purpose. You're talking about checking up on this person, as an employer not a doctor.

I stand by my original recommendation, because it is the most legally safe course.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My question was a general one. In my instance I called because the employee was using the excuse that they were canceling their appointment with the coverage person because they had too much work to do. So I called to see if the doctor's office to elicit them encouraging her to keep her important appointment and let them know if she does not show up, that it is not because of her work as she told her coverage employee.

Ok. Well, that's a different scenario.

If your first question, you asked "if my employee informs me of a sudden need for time off from work for a doctor's appointment and arranges coverage, do I have the right to call the doctor's office to confirm this?"

That question suggests that you are calling to confirm the existence of an appointment.

Now, you are asking if it is ok to call the doctor's office to tell them to encourage the employee to go to the appointment and, not asking for information but giving them information (if the employee doesn't come, it is not because there is too much work).

There isn't a problem with that. You aren't eliciting information concerning the medical appointment at all. You're encouraging the medical office to continue in their care and ensuring them that nothing on your end is stopping the employee from attending any appointments.

Different facts render different answers.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

yes, thank you, XXXXX XXXXX I am informed that she did not have the appointment at all.

This is dishonesty in her request for time off.

Ok. So, you didn't call checking up on the appointment. You called to encourage the appointment.

The medical staff there stated that she did not have an appointment.

You want to do something about it, I'm assuming.

Terminate her employment. Engage in whatever disciplinary action you want.

You're right. It is a dishonest statement from her concerning the emergency appointment. She'll claim some sort of privacy violation and you'll have to state the facts as you have here to avoid any sort of liability.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Do I have a right to act on this information as it happened, especially since she was using my employment as the reason for not keeping this alleged appointment as she told her coverage person?

Is this defendable on my part?

Yes, you can act on this information, as it happened.

The facts, as you've stated them, indicate no invasion of privacy that would cause legal liability. You can act on this information.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The employee did not have work to do that could be used as an excuse to cancel, even if this appointment was real. This was not true either.

I just wished to know if what I learned as her physician could be used as me being her employer as well?

I understand your question. Again, as you've stated the facts here (and that's all I can go on), you can use this information as her employer.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. Also I actually let her go for this several days ago, but she came back to me with added testimony that someone else at the doctor's office would be able to confirm that she did indeed have the appointment, so I hired her back. Only to find out this was also not true and that she had blocked further release of information from her account.

I then presented my knowledge that her added testimony was not true either, gave her the opportunity to tell me the truth and try to establish some form of trust again and she gave more false testimony by stating that she must have talked to someone else about this appointment whom she did not know the name of. I know this is not true either.

So I let her go again because of the continued deception and my lack of trust in her completely.

I think that all these facts together make it clear that the issue here was her continued falsehoods.

I see no legal issue with the chain of events as you've described them.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you very much for your expertise. My question now is did I give enough warning about her dishonesty to defend my decision to terminate her?

Unless she had some sort of contract of employment requiring multiple notifications, warnings and due process, you don't really have any set amount of warnings you have to give to terminate someone.

Someone without a contract of employment outlining a lengthy termination process can be terminated "at will" without cause, without warning.

Now, if you are talking about whether or not you have enough to block unemployment, I think that you have more than enough for that. This was not a single event, but rather, multiple attempts to give you false information and use her medical issues for free time off.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Does it make a difference that she aborted the coverage and stayed at work that day?

No, it doesn't. The lie was already told.

I mean yes, it makes it less egregious, but still more than sufficient to block unemployment, or at least to make a solid argument.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you once again. She also had other significant examples of dishonesty as well, where she tried to blame another employee for her errors, which she signed off on. I never confronted her with these because of the concern of her reacting negatively, which she did in this case where I presented her with the testimony of the doctor's office staff. She was very irate and hostile toward me and said I was accusing her of being a lier, then she stormed away from me as we were talking. It was very traumatic.

I just don't feel I can ever work with her again, nor trust her.


I think that you have a clear and legal basis for termination, as well as blocking her unemployment.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you very much for all of your time and expertise! You are very knowledgeable and patient.

No problem. Take care and good luck going forward.
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