As previously discussed, the California Department of Industrial Relations, which will enforce California’s new Paid Sick Leave law, put out a webinar to discuss compliance issues. According to the webinar, requiring employees to provide doctors’ notes could be construed as unlawful interference with their statutory right to the leave.

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Nothing in the statute specifically addresses whether employers can ask for doctors’ notes. But it’s such a well-established practice with similar types of leave, that it seemed safe to assume it was allowable. Still, somehow the DIR has interpreted the statute to say that denying Paid Sick Leave for failure to provide a doctor’s note may be unlawful.

If Paid Sick Leave is intended to provide a benefit for employees who validly need it, prohibiting doctors’ notes is ridiculous. If, instead, the law is intended as another way to subject well-meaning employers to expensive lawsuits and agency enforcement actions, then it makes perfect sense.

The equivocal statement in the webinar, that the DIR believes that asking for a doctor’s note may be unlawful, does not have the force of law. We’ll continue to watch this issue over the 2 months before the law takes effect and report any developments.