Question: One of our employees went to a holistic healer, who they admit is not a certified practitioner, and he advised the employee that she needed a week off work. However, he will not write her a doctor’s note; he will only speak to someone via telephone. We have an attendance policy that requires a doctor’s certificate for missing that much work. Are we violating this employee’s rights by documenting them for an attendance policy violation?
Answer from the experts at HR.BLR.com: Thank you for your inquiry regarding an employee’s failure to supply a doctor’s note in accordance with your standard attendance policy.
As long as your policy is fairly and consistently applied, then you would not be violating this employee’s rights by expecting her to adhere to the established policy.
Generally, employees may be entitled to leave for their own health needs under any (or all) of three categories—sick leave, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and/or leave as a reasonable accommodation for a qualified disability under the ADA. For purposes of this inquiry, based on the information provided regarding the health practitioner, we assume that the employee would not qualify for leave under the FMLA or ADA.
With regard to your sick leave/absenteeism policy, as long as the policy is fairly and consistently applied to all employees, then you would not be violating this employee’s rights by (a) expecting her to provide a written doctor’s note or (b) expecting that note to come from a licensed medical practitioner.
(Note: if the employee’s sincerely held religious practices would prevent the employee from visiting a traditionally certified medical practitioner, then the employer may need to consider a reasonable accommodation to this policy. However, requesting written documentation to confirm being seen by a healing practitioner and the related need for leave would still be permissible.)