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I recently shared with my supervisor that I was suffering…

Customer Question
Hello, I recently shared...

Hello, I recently shared with my supervisor that I was suffering panic attacks after stopping hormone replacement therapy after 20 years. I told her that I was seeing a psychologist who had referred me to a psychiatrist who then prescribed anti-anxiety medicine. I shared this with her because I missed a conference call due to a panic attack. Today, I received an email from her asking me to call HR. I did and HR strongly implied that I needed to have a conversation with my doctor and ask him to recommend short term disability. My question is, can my employer force me to ask my doctor for short term disability even when I don't feel I need it. I missed one meeting, am taking my medication and am following up with my therapist. Neither the psychologist nor the psychiatrist ever mentioned taking time off from work. What are my rights in this situation?

Lawyer's Assistant: Because employment law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

I am a telecommute employee. I work in GA but the company is located in UT.

Lawyer's Assistant: Is the employment agreement "at will," union, full time or part time?

Full time

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

Not that I can think of

Submitted: 8 months ago.Category: Employment Law
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Answered in 2 minutes by:
11/13/2017
Employment Lawyer: Dwayne B., Lawyer replied 8 months ago
Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 34,389
Experience: Employment Law Expert
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Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today.

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Employment Lawyer: Dwayne B., Lawyer replied 8 months ago

Please allow me several minutes to read your facts and type my response both initially and when you add a follow up question or add facts. Please don't ask "are you there", "where is my answer", etc., since when you post it can erase what I am working on. If we are having a conversation unless I tell you I am going offline, I will be here but I may be doing research.

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Employment Lawyer: Dwayne B., Lawyer replied 8 months ago

There is nothing inherently illegal in an employer suggesting you consider taking short term disability (likely they will say it was meant to be in combination with FMLA leave).

An employer can terminate an employee for missing even one meeting. That plays a part because they are in a bit of a Catch 22 situation here. If they are detecting a change in personality, performance, etc. (even if it is just the first instance) then they must address the issue with you or stand the chance of being accused of treating you more favorably if they then treat another employee in a different way later. To them, the safest and most logical option would be to suggest a period of time off of work in which you are paid and which would allow you to adapt to the change in medications.

This is a common suggestion for employment lawyers to make to their clients in similar situations although normally it comes with the additional suggestion of documenting why this is being done.

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Customer reply replied 8 months ago
I see. I just felt that my supervisor sharing information that I sent to her in confidence was unethical. Is there anything that prevents her from sharing that information with others within the organization?
Employment Lawyer: Dwayne B., Lawyer replied 8 months ago

There could be some HIPAA problems, but the law allows an employer to share issues like that with others in the company and lawyers or doctors if there is a valid reason. There is hardly any law on HIPAA because it doesn't allow employees and patients to file lawsuits for violations.

You can file a complaint with the Depart of HHS or your state's Attorney General but they rarely do anything and the employer often holds a grudge so it's a personal decision as to whether you want to do so or not.

I think you could certainly let your employer know you don't want them sharing info without your specific permission and you may even want to get a local lawyer to write them a letter telling them that. You'd be in a better position to know how much of a risk you're taking.

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