Illness and injury can affect your ability to work, which will likely result in you taking some time off to recover. Even if you give your employer a doctor’s note so you can take time off, they might still want to contact your doctor directly. But can they do that?
Yes, your employer can contact your doctor and do so without asking for your consent. They’ll most likely do that to verify that you are indeed sick or injured and that the doctor’s note you provided is authentic. However, your right to privacy is protected by HIPAA laws that limit how much information your doctor can share with them.
If you’re at all concerned about your right to privacy, you’ll want to read this article to the end. Here, you’ll learn about the circumstances in which your employer can contact your doctor without your consent. More importantly, you’ll discover how there are laws in place to protect you.
Let’s get started.
Can My Employer Call My Doctor?
Yes, your employer can call your doctor directly. However, that’s no reason for you to panic about your confidential medical records or your personal privacy. For the most part, all of your medical records are confidential and protected by law.
In other words, even though your employer can call your doctor, they’re only allowed to do so for a limited number of reasons. On the other hand, your doctor is also bound by the same laws that restrict them from sharing too much of your medical information.
Your employer and doctor can find themselves in a lot of trouble if they violate those laws. As such, it’s in their best interest to share the least amount of information possible with each other.
Here are some of the reasons why your employer might want to call your doctor in the first place:
- For verification: Suppose you miss a few days of work due to illness and hand your employer a doctor’s note. In that case, your employer might call your doctor directly to verify that the note was genuine.
- Worker’s compensation: Somewhat similar to the reason above, your employer will also speak to your doctor if you suffer an injury while on the job. Seeing as how your employer is liable to provide you with worker’s compensation, they’ll want to ensure that your injury is real before they can proceed with compensating you.
- Doctor’s orders: Whether you were injured on or off the job, your doctor will create a recovery plan for you to follow. Your employer must understand and follow your doctor’s orders, so they can make accommodations to help you recover while ensuring they don’t make your condition worse.
The list above shows that the reasons your employer would contact your doctor are very limited. On top of that, plenty of laws are designed precisely to protect you and your medical information in these situations.
The laws that protect you in these cases are known as HIPAA laws, which you’ll learn more about below.
What Is HIPAA, And Why Does It Matter?
As you read above, you have little reason to worry about your employer calling your doctor. That’s because whatever they discuss regarding your medical issues is regulated by law, specifically HIPAA laws.
HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. These laws were designed to enable information sharing to get high-quality healthcare.
More importantly, HIPAA laws ensure that your right to privacy is protected while your private medical information is being shared between parties like your employer and doctor.
HIPAA laws accomplish that in several ways.
Firstly, the laws state clear guidelines that both your employer and doctor must follow at all times. So, not only must they safely store your private medical information, but they can only share limited amounts of information when communicating.
Secondly, violating those laws and undermining your privacy will land your employer or doctor in a lot of trouble.
Employers and doctors must be familiar with HIPAA laws and have policies in place regarding them. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry about your employer calling your doctor, as both of them know the rules when sharing your medical information.
Can My Employer Contact My Doctor Without My Consent?
Yes, your employer can contact your doctor without your consent or authorization. Still, HIPAA laws protect you in these cases and limit the situations in which your consent is not needed.
For example, your employer can call your doctor to verify your worker’s compensation details. That’s when you suffer an injury on the job, and your employer is liable to compensate you for it.
When that happens, your employer has a right to speak to your doctor and get their professional opinion on your injuries.
That’s necessary because some employees are not honest about their injuries. Speaking to your doctor allows your employer to ensure that your injuries are real and that you aren’t exaggerating or making them up entirely.
Despite that, you can also take a proactive approach and give your employer consent to contact your doctor directly. When providing written consent to your doctor, it would be helpful to include the name of the person who will be calling your doctor for further information.
One important thing to remember is that your employer might not be the one to call your doctor directly. Instead, their insurers might call your doctor on their behalf.
Under HIPAA laws, insurers are also allowed to contact your doctor for the same reasons described above. Of course, they’re also bound by the same rules that are in place to protect your privacy and the confidentiality of your medical conditions.
Does My Employer Have To Follow Doctor’s Orders?
Earlier, you read that your employer would call your doctor to verify your illness or injury. They’ll also be made aware of the doctor’s orders as they do that.
In this case, the doctor’s orders instructions related to your recovery plan, which includes what work you can or can’t do.
Your employer must follow the doctor’s orders and ensure you don’t do anything that might worsen your injury or condition.
Otherwise, your employer risks facing lawsuits or other kinds of trouble for knowingly going against the recovery plan your doctor has given you.
Suppose you work in a warehouse and recently injured yourself while on the job. In that case, your doctor might insist you don’t do any heavy lifting while recovering. Your employer can’t go against those instructions and put you at risk of reinjuring yourself.
The same is true if your doctor has given you a specific number of days off from work. When that happens, your employer cannot force you back to work or threaten you if you do not return.
Both you and your employer must follow your doctor’s orders so you can recover as quickly as possible.
Does My Employer Have Access To My Medical Records?
No, your employer does not have any access to your medical records. Again, your doctor can help your employer verify that you’re injured or sick, but they have no right to access your medical records directly.
Your medical records belong with your doctor, and they are legally required to protect them. Doctors must not disclose your records to anyone, even your employer.
Remember: HIPAA laws exist to ensure that all stakeholders protect your privacy and the confidentiality of your medical information. That means your employer must secure any medical information they have about you, and your doctor must do the same.
Sure, HIPAA laws allow your doctor and employer to share information. However, they can only do so to a very limited extent. In other words, they must share the least amount of information possible.
What Do I Do In Case Of Unauthorized Disclosure Of Medical Information?
In a perfect world, doctors will protect your medical information and avoid oversharing with your employer. However, you might find yourself in a situation where your doctor has committed an unauthorized disclosure of your medical information.
If you know or suspect that your private medical information was disclosed in a way that’s not authorized by the laws protecting you, you must file a complaint. Keeping quiet would not be the responsible thing to do, as your information and that of other people must be protected.
You can file a complaint directly with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). They will investigate the complaint to find out what happened and enforce the rules appropriately.
Overall, you must understand that your employer can contact your doctor directly and without your consent. But if you know they want to speak to your doctor, you can also choose to give authorization to your doctor before that happens.
The most important thing to understand is that your right to privacy is protected, specifically by HIPAA laws. These laws ensure that all stakeholders, like your employer and doctor, only share very limited amounts of your medical information.
If you suspect that your doctor has committed an unauthorized disclosure of your information, you can file a complaint and have the issue investigated.