Can My Employer Contact My Doctor Without My Consent?

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Can My Employer Contact My Doctor Without My Consent?

by | Mar 21, 2023 | Employment Law

Thanks to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Americans can feel secure knowing no one can share their sensitive medical information without their consent or knowledge. Yet, this privacy law doesn’t stop employers from trying to gather health information on their employees for various reasons.

Continue reading to learn about the federal laws regarding your employer and their access to your medical records.

Why Would Your Employer Request to Speak to Your Doctor?

It’s more common than you think for employers to call their employees’ or potential employees’ doctors.

Sometimes an employer wants to verify a doctor’s note or sick leave information. While this is legal, if your employer asks for further private details about a medical condition without your consent, it goes against your employee rights.

Conversely, some businesses have a company policy to confirm their employees’ medical history before beginning work. This is standard for jobs requiring physical strength since employees must be fit enough to do the job. It mitigates health and safety risks.

Some employers want additional information to prevent disability discrimination. This is because the Department of Labor states that employers must make reasonable accommodations to allow individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to get jobs and successfully perform their duties to the same extent as employees without disabilities.

What Laws Prevent an Employer from Seeing an Employee’s Medical Data?

HIPAA, passed by Congress, created national standards for protecting sensitive health data. Then the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which puts the law into practice. Further, the HIPAA Security Rule states that individuals have control over the distribution and use of their health information. Overall, HIPAA promotes quality medical care that protects the public’s privacy and well-being.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also restrict medical record sharing with employers when employees take continuous or intermittent leave.

Can an Employer Call Your Doctor?

Employment law says that your employer or human resources can call your doctor. However, they cannot ask questions about your confidential medical records.

Yet, your employer will unlikely call your doctor to discuss short-term sick leave. However, should you require leave for a more extended period of time, your employer may be more inclined to call your doctor to discuss the medical reason you need more time off.

In this case, the laws still limit what your employer can ask and how much your healthcare provider can share.

When Can Your Employer Contact Your Doctor Without Your Consent?

The answer depends on the circumstances regarding whether your employer can call your doctor about your personal health information without your consent. It’s legal for your employer to contact your doctor’s office without your consent for these reasons:

  • To affirm a doctor’s note
  • To comply with workers’ compensation laws
  • To confirm your health won’t affect your ability to work
  • To document your level of fitness
  • To verify your health won’t pose a risk to you or your coworkers
  • To receive reimbursement for medical care they provided to an employee

Additionally, should a case arise where federal or state law requires your employer to call your doctor without your consent, they can do so.

Can an Employer Verify a Doctor’s Note?

The short answer is yes.

Although unlikely for short-term leave, your employer has the right to verify a doctor’s note if you’re taking FMLA leave for a serious health condition. They will almost certainly speak with your doctor in this case.

However, your employer can only verify with the doctor when you first take leave. Thanks to FMLA, you won’t need to provide your medical certificate every time you’re absent from work for long-term health problems.

Can You Get Fired for Calling In Sick?

Although sickness is part of life, Florida is an at-will employment state. This means your employer can fire you without cause. So even if you have a valid doctor’s note for missing work, your employer could decide to fire you. Should this happen, seek legal advice to see if you have any legal protections.

HIPAA and Workers’ Compensation

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under HHS states that the Privacy Rule doesn’t apply to the following workers’ compensation entities:

  • Administrative agencies
  • Employers
  • Insurers

If employees experience personal injuries on the job or work-related illnesses, these entities will need health information to process employment claims, coordinate healthcare, and arrange compensation.

Healthcare providers usually give the information to the worker’s compensation entity because the Privacy Rule recognizes their need to access it. The Privacy Rule allows providers to disclose health information in three ways.

Disclosures Without Individual Authorization

Workers’ compensation entities can share health information without authorization in several instances. They include:

  • When workers’ compensation laws or other similar programs that provide health benefits authorize them to do so
  • When a state or other regulation requires the disclosure
  • To obtain payment for healthcare services an entity provided to an injured or sick employee

Disclosures With Individual Authorization

Entities can share protected health information with authorization from the individual. However, if there is authorization, it must meet the requirements of 45 CFR 164.508.

Minimum Necessary

Although entities may need to share health information to fulfill workers’ compensation promises, they must limit the data they share. They should only share information that pertains to the workers’ compensation claim.

Let Us Help Protect Your Legal Rights on the Job

While employers can call your doctor in certain circumstances, several laws protect just how much information your employer can access from your healthcare provider.

If your employer unlawfully accessed your personal health information, it’s best to speak with a lawyer. Contact us at Burnett Law P.A. today for a free consultation to see how we can assist with your case. We believe in building a solid client relationship so our team can best represent you in court and get you the compensation you deserve.