I recently asked an employee who took a day off for a doctor’s note. But the note was ambiguous. It just said that the employee needed to stay home “for medical reasons.” Can I request more detailed medical information?
The rule is that you can ask employees for medical information you need to carry out a legitimate employment function as long as you don’t ask for more than what’s necessary to carry out the function. In the context of an isolated one-day absence, you’re allowed to ask for a doctor’s note verifying the employee’s medical need to be absent for the day. And while it’s pretty terse, the doctor’s note you got did provide adequate verification. So, if you try to gather more information, like a diagnosis or reason for the illness, you’ll be asking for more information than reasonably necessary and running afoul of privacy restrictions.
Keep in mind that we’re talking about a single day’s absence. You have much more leeway to collect medical information verifying the need for long absences and other accommodations; in addition, you can require an injured employee’s doctor to provide a medical/functional abilities assessment as part of your return-to-work process.