From the Hotline: Documentation of Non-Work Related Injuries

Question: Should an employer ask an employee who injured himself at home to document in writing that the injury is not work-related? Does the employee need to provide a note from his doctor releasing him to return to work?

Answer: It is fairly common for employers to have an employee complete some form of time off request for days missed from work that could include a section about the time off requested and general reason why, such as “illness or injury” for non-work related causes and “illness or injury – work-related”.  Next to that “work-related” section, employers may include a notation alerting employees to follow the company’s workers’ compensation reporting/treatment policy.  This could be useful in the event of managing work-related treatment and claims early and/or reducing late claim filing.  As a caution, however, for employee privacy reasons, refrain from encouraging or requiring the employee to document on that form the exact nature of the illness or injury.

It is important to be consistent in terms of the return to work medical release request and exercise caution not to assume that someone cannot work due to a condition he/she discloses. In short, unless the employee is requesting accommodations and/or you normally ask for a note after a short absence from work, don’t single an employee out with a request for a medical release in order to reduce your risk for a discrimination claim.