One of the most common types of medical notes that we see our clients receive is the so-called Kaiser “Work Status Report“. Usually, it just states that an employee is excused from work from date x till date y. No further information about that employee’s medical condition is provided. While this kind of Kaiser note excuses an employee from coming into work, it provides no ADA / FEHA protection, because it gives the employer no information about whether the employee has a qualifying ADA disability. So, if you need an accommodation, such as medical leave, reduced work hours, modified duties, you cannot expect the employer to know that based on this type of note alone, even if you provide multiple such notes.
This becomes critical in situations where an employee who has a qualifying ADA disability is fired for attendance issues. If this is the type of information provided to the management, that employee will be unable to make any type of wrongful termination or discrimination claims. This is because the employer, who is not aware of an employee’s disability, cannot be held liable for discriminating based on the disability that he had no knowledge of. Therefore, if you take a day or two off for medical reasons, but you also know that your illness requires more significant adjustment to your work, it’s important that you communicate your diagnosis and limitations to your employer as soon as possible.
Let’s take a classic example of diabetes. If your employer doesn’t know that you have that illness, the fact that you call in sick on occasion because of your diabetes related symptoms doesn’t tell the employer that you have a disability and are entitled to ADA protection. At a minimum, you should inform your employer of your diagnosis and your current / anticipated limitations to put them on some notice of your need for accommodation. Then, you could work together with your doctors and your employer on figuring out which accommodations are need and are reasonable under the circumstances.