Hi, I'm Christine

Welcome! I help business owners build sound HR foundations and practices that will grow with their organization and help them stay compliant.

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Is Asking for a Doctor’s Note Appropriate?

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I get calls from clients frustrated that their employees are missing work due to illness and want a doctor’s note verifying the employee was really sick. 

I get it. You’re already short-staffed, and now someone is out sick when you’re pretty sure you saw them at Target yesterday evening. 

Your instinct is to tell the employee they can’t come back to work without a doctor’s note, but is that the right approach? Maybe, but maybe not.

The first thing to be crystal clear about is your state law. Many states have clear guidelines on asking for a doctor’s note to verify an employee was sick. For example, you can’t request one in Oregon until the fourth consecutive day of absence. If you request one, it’s also up to you, as the employer, to pay for it in most situations. 

Then, think about the impact of tying up the healthcare system, and the fact they will now miss more time trying to get into the doctor to get this illustrious note to prove you wrong and return to work. 

Who wins? Honestly, no one. 

So what do you do in these situations? Well, you may have read a recent post I wrote about “managing the work, not the behavior.” This is another one of those situations where you can get tied up in managing someone’s behavior. 

Take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. Does this employee bring value? When they’re working, do they perform? Have you had other issues with their performance?

If the employee has performance issues and the work isn’t what you want or expect, focus on that. Put them on a performance plan, and manage the work. 

If you realize they perform but have just missed a lot of work, perhaps it’s a matter of having a direct conversation with them about your organization’s needs versus their situation. Perhaps working part-time would be better for them and less frustrating for you. It’s not uncommon for me to be in this situation, and when I have a conversation with the employee, I realize they were not in a position to work full-time but were afraid to say anything because they needed the job. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a good part-time employee than no employee at all! Especially these days! 

So, the next time you’re frustrated and want to solve the problem by involving the doctor, maybe the solution is entirely within your own power and just needs you to take a step back and look at it a little differently. 

More to explorer

Manage The Work, Not The Behavior

Too often, employers get involved in managing employees’ personal lives rather than focusing on the work they are paying an employee to

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