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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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Can my employer require me to sign a medical records release

Customer Question

Can my employer require me to sign a medical records release in order to have my doctor answer questions relating to my medical leave even though he has signed a release approving return to work with no restrictions?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is ***** ***** I will do everything I can to answer your question.

No, this is not permissible. All an employer is entitled to is reasonable medical verification that an employee is physically able to safely and effectively perform the essential functions of their job. If your employer doubts the veracity of the release you provided, they could ask for additional documentation (i.e. another letter from the doctor), but they can never demand medical records or seek information about your underlying health condition. That information is always protected. If you are fired in retaliation for refusing to provide such information/documentation, you would typically have a claim for wrongful termination in violation of the ADA. you would pursue such claim by filing a complaint with the EEOC. This information should be conveyed to your employer in writing sent via certified mail. That will probably be enough to get them off your back and for them to cave on this issue.

I hope that you find this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I went on stress leave after my father's death. My short term disability began on September 17th and my doctor indicated a period of disability for two months. The California EDD did approve my claim. On November 12th I received paperwork from my employer requesting that I sign a medical records release in order to have my doctor answer questions relating to my medical disability leave - well...I saw my doctor today and he signed his own form indicating that I was good to go back with no restrictions - I just called my employer to let them know that I will be coming back this Wednesday - they told me that I still need to have the forms from my doctor. So what you're saying is that the doctor's note should suffice - that since my return is to be this Wednesday, they should not need that form completed by my doctor, nor should they need to have my doctor release any of my medical information to their doctor of choice. - right? Thank you for elaborating a little more. I'm a little freaked out since in their letter they're saying that if I don't provide this, they can terminate my employment.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply. What I am saying is that all your employer can do is require reasonable verification that you are physically able to do your job. I do not know exactly what you provided and so I am not in a position to tell you that it is absolutely positively sufficient. But what I can tell you is that a general medical release is never required. All you should ever have to do is provide a doctor's note indicating that you are able to go back to work without restrictions.

Now, if your employer is not asking you to divulge all your medical records or asking for specific medical information but rather is simply seeking additional confirmation that you are able to do your job, it would probably bein your interest to cooperate. Sure, you could argue that you already met your obligation by providing the doctor's note you did, but do you really want to bet your employment on that? You would be trading your job for a lawsuit that may take a year or more to resolve. I guess what I am saying is pick your battles. if your employer is asking for extremely invasive details about your medical condition that is one thing, but if they are simply looking to confirm your ability to do your job then the legality of their request is much more questionable and it's probably a fight worth avoiding.

I hope this helps.

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Was I able to answer your question here? Please let me know if you require any further assistance....