Can employers require a doctor’s note or COVID-19 test results from sick employees?

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The coronavirus numbers are like a lingering illness: they are not getting any better.

Nearly 1,000 new cases were reported in Hillsborough County from Thursday morning to Friday morning, Department of Health data shows. Around 17,660 people have been infected in the county to date, DOH said.

During the most recent Emergency Policy Group meeting, Commissioner Sandra Murman brought up a strange scenario: if you get sick, can your employer require a doctor’s note or proof of the virus?

“Several doctors have asked me about this situation where patients have come to them to get tested and the employers are requiring the employee to provide the results of the test to him or to her, the employer,” Murman said.

She believes there is a legitimate reason behind it.

“I think people are getting nervous because it’s such a widespread transmission right now and the employer is trying to protect the other employees from anybody that may be testing positive,” the commissioner said Thursday.

Christine Beck, the Hillsborough County attorney, did not have an answer immediately available after Murman’s question but indicated that she will research the topic and find out.

8 On Your Side sought answers and turned to employment attorney Ryan Barack.

“If someone tells you they have COVID and are in quarantine or they’re being quarantined, then the employer should be thoughtful in their response to that person,” Barack said.

He said an employer can seek out a key piece of information.

“The employer can ask the employee who the doctor was who gave them the instruction that they should quarantine. And the employee should provide that information to the employer, identifying who the health care provider was who told them to quarantine,” Barack said.

The employer should never call the health care provider to verify the legitimacy of the positive test result, Barack indicated.

He thinks people, for the most part, are truthful and would never take advantage of the system during a worldwide crisis.

“I can’t imagine anyone thinking that this is an opportunity to game the system,” said Barack. “We are in a global pandemic and employers need to be thoughtful and reasonable and treat their employees with respect. And an employer who doesn’t treat their employees with respect should really be just ashamed of that,” he said.

Some sick employees are entitled to be paid by their employer, Barack said.

8 On Your Side learned that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to give their employees paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19.

Most large companies are exempt from paying sick leave related to COVID-19, unless they decide to do it on their own, reports show.

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