Ask HR: Can I require an employee to provide a doctor’s note?

Dear HR,

I have an employee who is claiming sick time and wants more time off to get well and get paid for this time off. Can I require that the employee provide me with a doctor’s note verifying that he is sick and needs more time to recover? He says he doesn’t want to pay to see a doctor to get checked and get a letter.

HR Answer.

According to Oregon law ORS 659A.306 “Prohibition on Employer Requiring Medical Release unless the Employer pays Out-of-Pocket Costs” has actually been in place for many years prior to Oregon Sick Time law. Most employees were unaware of the rule until Oregon Sick Time rolled out in 2016. Cardinal typically encourages employers to include in your company handbook, the verbiage “may require a doctor’s note…” in your Attendance/Sick Time Policies as not all employers will want to pay for the costs of the note, especially when it’s obvious an employee is sick.

Yes, employers may require medical verification if an employee is out sick for more than three consecutive days or if they suspect the employee is abusing the sick time policy; however employers must pay for any costs associated with getting the note, including lost wages.

Employers are not required to pay for diagnosis, treatment (prescriptions), or on-going care. Employers are only obligated to pay for any costs associated with getting the “note.” As far as lost wages, since the employee had already called out sick for his shift and this is a qualifying sick time reason, the time for the doctor visit should be classified and paid under the sick time policy. Employers are not required to pay wages in addition to the sick time.

You will need to review your current policy to see if you have the verbiage “may require a doctor note.” If you do not have this phrase, you cannot require a doctor’s note now, nor make this requirement retroactively. However, going forward, if you need help in revising your handbook please call Cardinal Services – we can help your clarify and amend your handbook!