What information can you ask for and how can you ensure your managers all follow the same absence policy?
Usually when an hourly employee calls in sick, you tell them to feel better or ask when they plan on coming back to work. Sometimes, you ask them for more information.
So the question is - As an employer, can you legally ask your employees why they are calling in sick? If so, what else can you ask them about?
What can employers ask about when an employee calls in sick?
Different companies have different policies when it comes to sick leave. Employers must follow their internal policies and procedures consistently, not favoring any one employee over another.
Asking for a doctor’s notes: An employer may ask an employee to produce a doctor’s note, explaining the absence. However, an employer may not ask for specifics on a diagnosis or medicines prescribed.
Asking about an ADA-related illness: An employer is prohibited from asking any specific questions about an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protected illness.
Asking union employees about their absence: If your hourly employees are unionized, you should review, understand, and follow the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which should address sick days and the rights of the employees. Like any internal policies and procedures, this agreement should be followed to a T. If you have a question about the CBA or an employee’s actions or inactions, you should contact the union representative.
Asking about the use of sick leave: Different states have different laws when it comes to sick leave. In California, a law passed in 2016 specifically states that California employees can use paid sick days beginning their 90th day of employment with their employer. The law also covers all employees—including part-time and temporary—if the employees worked for at least 30 days for the same employer within a calendar year.
Although this law does not specify what an employer can or cannot ask an employee about sick leave, the California Department of Industrial Relations interprets the state law as prohibiting an employer from denying sick leave to an employee who fails to present a doctor’s note.
How to properly ask your employees for more information when they are calling in sick
Ask standardized questions: To reduce legal risk, human resources professionals should create standardized questions when asking an employee about sick time, lessening the chance of a manager or other supervisor asking an illegal question by mistake.
By controlling the narrative, even if your company policy or applicable law changes, you don’t have to worry about managers adapting to comply. They should work from the script provided by HR, keeping them and your company legally on track.
Automate answer collection: Collect data through an automated means so you can lessen the chance of error (or misinterpretation) of the employee’s response, the company’s policies and procedures, or the law.
By formally and adequately documenting the conversation with the employee, you have created a written record of the discussion in the event of possible dispute resolution.
Keep detailed records: Mitigate your legal risk by retaining employee details and attendance history for any potential dispute or audit resolution while keeping your collected data all in the same place.
By automating your absence management procedures by utilizing a tool like TeamSense’s text-based call in solution, you can receive instant text messages about absences instead of wasting time listening to voicemails or following up with employees who didn’t call. Also, you can automatically send a notification to managers and shift supervisors with all the absence details while reviewing absence trends by employee, manager, division, or location.