“Need a Therapist’s or Doctor’s Note for Work?”

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Covid Stresses make “Doctor’s Notes” of Even Greater Need

“The life so short, the craft so long to learn.”

– Hippocrates

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ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Our staff and clients can readily attest to the fact that, over the last several years, and more so since the onset of the Covid pandemic, “Dr’s Notes” have been in greater demand. Not only are issues like anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicidal thoughts affecting so many more employees than they used to, but stress-induced physical problems – difficulties sleeping, digesting, concentrating, to name a few – are on the rise, as well.

At the same time, it is startling how often these days our health care professionals have become involved in our clients’ employment relations. Here are ten (10) examples; there are many more:

  1. in the utilization of extended sick time or paid time off (“PTO”);
  2. as a requirement for taking time off under the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”);
  3. in support of requests for reasonable accommodations for a partial disability such as a wheelchair accessible restroom, higher volume telephone, adjusted workplace attendance times, and ergonomic furniture, when bodily limitations require them;
  4. as part of the application process for short-term or long-term disability leaves of absence;
  5. in taking time off for maternity and paternity leaves;
  6. as part of the invocation of company “Employee Assistance Programs” (“EAP”) for substance abuse or emotional issues;
  7. in matters of workplace safety and security;
  8. following workplace-related injury;
  9. in support of objections and/or complaints regarding bullying, discrimination and/or hostility; and
  10. as evidence of why an employee needs to “involuntarily” resign, yet should remain eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, severance and redress of legal claims.

In each of these circumstances, and many more, employees are now commonly required to submit to their employer’s Human Resource staff a written certification of their difficulty, and their corresponding need for appropriate accommodation, relief or remedy.

It’s a common occurrence, one with which health care professionals are often asked to assist. But many employees are uncomfortable with the process, reluctant to make the necessary request, and not confident how to do so. And, too, health-related professionals all seem so very busy.

LESSON TO LEARN: Don’t be reluctant to ask your health-related professionals if you are required to provide certification or validation of your difficulty and your need for some sort of relief or remedy at work. It has become so common an occurrence that most health-related professionals have come to see this task as part of their daily professional lives.

That said, you are well-advised to be polite, efficient in conveying such a request, and aware of the scarcity of the professional’s time, and any deadlines you face in getting it back to your employer. When someone is helping you, it just makes sense to help make it easy for them to do so.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider and bear in mind these five thoughts:

1. Don’t be reluctant to ask your physician or therapist. If you need a doctor’s or therapist’s “note” it isn’t really asking for a favor; it is asking them to do for you what they do for all of their patients – render an appropriate, healthcare-related service. It “comes with their territory.” It is a matter of your health, so it is not something to be shy about; appreciative, yes, but shy, no.

2. Try to be clear, concise and considerate in your request. Your request should be brief, concise and clear. It should include:

    a. The information and message you need;
    b. to whom it should be addressed,
    c. to where it should be sent,
    d. any specific items it needs to confirm,
    e. any deadlines for its receipt by HR or other company (insurance, etc.); and
    f. that a copy be sent to you simultaneously, as a courtesy.

Unless it is truly now relevant, you need not go into details of your medical history, your problems at work, or what you wish to do with any time off. Those are things your health-related professional should know, or can later be told, when appropriate.

3. Ask your health professional to send you a copy simultaneously. So that you know what was written on your behalf by your health care professional in the needed certification, and when it was sent, respectfully request that he or she send you a copy of it, so that you can refer to it if your employer claims, for any reason, that it is insufficient in any way(s).

4. Follow up with HR as to the Health Care Professional’s Letter’s (a) timely receipt, and (b) adequacy for purpose. Stuff happens. Things go astray. People go on vacation. Perhaps a point or two was not sufficiently clear. As this is a very important issue in your life, we urge you to leave no stone unturned, delayed, or forgotten.

5. If you are uncertain or uncomfortable with any aspect of the process, consider using our Model Letter Requesting a Therapist’s or Physician’s Letter that was designed for this very purpose. Many clients have asked us for a sample or model of what should be written, and what should be asked for. For this reason, we have prepared and now offer for purchase just such a letter. It includes both a “model” for you to use, as well as a “sample” for your health professional to use, for you to adapt to your own unique facts. See below.

In Summary . . .

In many circumstances, including among them applications for leaves of absence, request for an accommodation for a disability, or to back up a claim of injury from a workplace experience, “Doctors’ Notes” are being required by employers seemingly more than ever. Requesting one should not be avoided, but when doing so brevity, clarity and efficiency are in order. Health care professionals are usually cooperative and gracious with such requests, but care and caution are especially in order in this process.

P.S.: Need a Therapist’s or Dr’s Note for Work, for Disability, FMLA, Involuntary Resignation, Covid19, or Other Purpose? Use our “Model Letter for Requesting Therapist’s or Doctor’s Note for Work Purposes, with Sample Note.” Right words, sensitivity and professionalism. “What To Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

P.S.: If you would like to speak directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can often be accommodated.

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the likely bumps in the road. Being careful about what you sign is a sure step to do just that.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the State of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear.  Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.

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