You do not have to authorize the release of your medical records but, of course, this will make it very easy for the employer to terminate you as your job is no longer protected.
If you wish to have an opportunity to remain with the employer, you need to engage in, what we call, an interactive process, which involves communication between you, your health care providers and the employer. The employer needs to understand whether you have a qualified disability and, if you do, what your limitations are so they can determine whether a reasonable accommodation can be provided for those limitations to enable you to perform the essential functions of your job.
If your medical privacy is more important to you, you have the right to say no and they have the right to say goodbye. You probably will be eligible for unemployment when your doctor releases you to return to work because you lost your job through no fault of your own.
They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.
In addition to the good advice my colleagues provided, know that you do not have to disclose your entire medical history to your employer. You only need to disclose the medical information related to the condition for which you need additional leave. For example, if your disability is depression, the employer only needs the records related to your diagnosis and limitations from depression. The employer does not need records of your athlete's foot, broken leg, STD, or anything unrelated.
The interactive process Mr. Kirschbaum mentioned is part of the reasonable accommodation process. A reasonable accommodation may include extended leaves of absence. The employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation for a KNOWN disability. This allows the employer to obtain proof of the disability you want it to reasonably accommodate.
Please look at my Avvo guide on the ADA: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=disability-discrimination-in-employment and my Avvo guide to the differences between the ADA and California's more generous FEHA: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/employment-disability-protection-under-californias-fair-employment-and-housing-act-and-federal-ada?published=true.
An individual is not entitled to unemployment benefits for any period in which he or she is not able to work due to disability. That would be covered by State Disability Insurance. Both programs are administered through the Employment Development Department. edd.ca.gov
*** 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. ***
I would add that depending on how many employees your company has (question implies it has enough because leave is given), the company has a duty to provide you with a reasonable accommodation (if not an undue burden) which may include additional time off beyond the 12 weeks of leave you exhausted.
This is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.