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I am out on CA state disabilty for diagnosed depression from my doctor. I already submitted doctors note from my doctor...

Berkeley, CA |

to excuse me for the week of May 7,2013 and then my employer called my doctor to ask what was wrong with me, he told her he was not at liberty to disclose this information without my written consent. I am scheduled to return to work October 15 (3 weeks from now) yesterday I received a letter from my employer that she wanted me to sign this HIPPA form so she can contact my doctor to see what my prognosis is and also claiming it is also needed so she can budget temps to cover my absence. Does this seem normal? My doctor thinks not

Attorney Answers 3


This is inappropriate behavior on the part of your employer. They are entitled to reasonable verification of your illness (i.e. a doctor's note saying you are incapable of working) but nothing more. You have no legal obligation to sign a HIPAA form for your employer, and any retaliation which you can link to such refusal would give rise to a claim for damages. Good luck to you.

This answer is a general interpretation of the law and is not fact specific to your case. Likewise it does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for a review of your specific facts and documents.

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Your employer is only allowed limited information. It is allowed to have a note from your doctor indicating that you need time off due to a disabling condition and the predicted length of the disability. The employer is not allowed to learn about the diagnosis, prognosis or any other details unless you are returning to work with restrictions. At that point, the employer is allowed to know what restrictions you have and what can be done to accommodate those restrictions. What your employer is doing is attempting to snoop too deeply into your medically private information.

Good luck to you.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

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Mr. Pedersen and Mr. Phillips have given you great, accurate answers. You can learn more about your right to medical privacy by taking a look at some of my Avvo guides to the disability laws and family leave laws:

Please look at my Avvo guide on the ADA:

To get a better understanding of the employer's rights and your rights, please look at my Avvo guide on medical inquiries and examinations, and medical confidentiality under the ADA:

Please look at my Avvo guide to the differences between the ADA and California's more generous FEHA:

Please look at my Avvo guide on the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. section 2101 et seq. (FMLA):

Please consider this. Even if your employer violated the law, there may be many reasons not to do anything about it. Taking action could result in the loss of your job due to employer retaliation. While it is illegal to retaliate against an employee who makes a good faith complaint about illegal circumstances, all the law does is provide a remedy after the fact; the law cannot prevent your employer from taking retaliatory action in the first place. You may find yourself out of a job in this terrible economy and unable to find a replacement. No law suit, no matter how successful, can ever give you back the lost time and lost peace of mind that are taken from you during any litigation.

Of course, you should not have to choose between your job and your privacy rights. But the law does not prevent employers from violating the rights of their employees. The safest way to protect yourself is to retain an attorney to interact with your employer BEFORE the employer takes an adverse action. For this type of assistance, you can expect to pay hourly. Plaintiffs employment attorneys in California charge anywhere from $250 to $750 an hour depending on many factors including experience, area of law, geographic location, work load, interest in the case, difficulty of the case and more. You should expect to need at least four and up to ten hours for this kind of consultation.

To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state.

Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things people can do to improve their employment rights is vote for candidates with a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in a union already in place.

I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

@MikaSpencer * * * * * * PLEASE READ: All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. * * * Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. * * * No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. * * * Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis.

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