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As an employee in California, you have rights and protections when it comes to your health and well-being in the workplace. One question that often arises is whether an employer can ask you why you are sick. It’s important to understand your rights and what an employer can and cannot ask when it comes to your health. 

If you believe your employer violated your rights, never hesitate to reach out to a California employment attorney for guidance. 

Employer Questions

Imagine waking up one morning feeling too sick to go to work. Your throat is sore, you’re running a fever, and it’s clear that you have come down with something. You call in sick and your employer asks you, “Why are you sick?” This seemingly innocent question raises several concerns. Can your employer ask you why you are sick? What is the purpose behind this line of questioning? And most importantly, how should you respond?

Understanding Your Rights

Under California law, employers are not allowed to ask about the details or specifics of your illness. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from inquiring about an employee’s medical condition, including the nature or severity of the illness. This applies to both temporary and chronic conditions.

The purpose behind this law is to protect employees from discrimination based on their medical conditions. By prohibiting employers from asking about the nature of an illness, the law aims to ensure that individuals are not treated unfairly due to their health status.

When Can Employers Ask About Your Health?

While employers cannot ask about the specifics of your illness, they can inquire about your general ability to perform your job duties. For example, they may ask if you are able to come to work or if you require any accommodations. This is not considered an invasion of privacy, as it is related to your job responsibilities.

In some cases, employers may also ask for a doctor’s note or medical certification to verify your need for time off. However, they are not allowed to ask for the details of your medical condition, as this would violate your privacy rights.

How to Respond to Your Employer

When your employer asks why you are sick, it’s important to handle the situation tactfully. You are not obligated to provide a detailed explanation—you can simply state that you are unable to come to work due to an illness without going into specifics. Remember, your privacy is protected, and you have the right to withhold your medical information. If your employer persists in asking for additional details about your illness, it is advisable to consult with an employment attorney

Reach Out to San Diego Employment Attorneys Today!

If you have faced unlawful inquiries regarding your illness from your employer or have any other employment-related concerns, the Mara Law Firm is here to help. Our team of experienced San Diego employment attorneys is committed to providing the highest quality legal representation to workers from Chula Vista to El Cajon to La Jolla to Carlsbad. Schedule your free legal consultation with us today!

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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