Can an employer require a doctor's note with a diagnosis on it?

By Penny Morey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I am a waiter in Texas and work at least a 6-hour shift at a time. My employer allows others to take frequent smoke breaks but harasses me every time I bring in a snack to eat when time allows. Other waiters have also been caught eating but nothing is said to them. I have been ordered to bring in a doctor's note stating that I am hypoglycemic. I get weak and shaky when I do not have a few snaccks in the day and this problem runs in my family. However, I do not have insurance and the blood tests for an exact diagnosis are expensive. My boss harasses me every day for the note and has even written me up for eating.
An employer can require a doctor's note with a diagnosis if there is a good business reason for doing so. Are there written rules concerning breaks for smoking or eating concerning frequency and/or duration? If so, he is within his rights to expect you to follow the rules. After all, he needs waiters who are serving his customers.

Perception is the issue here, I suspect. He may not notice the smokers. Maybe they are outside the building or otherwise not within his range of vision as much as you are when you eat your snacks.

If there are no hard and fast rules about breaks and your employer has written you up for snacking, did you and he have a meeting of the minds? That is, did he tell you what it is about your snacking that makes him so upset? Is it the time(s) of day that you snack (e.g., busiest time at the restaurant)? Is it the amount of time you take to consume your snacks? Is it the kind of snacks that you bring to work (e.g., messy, malodorous, from a competitor's eatery)?

Understanding his point of view might help you figure out a way to minimize his frustration with you and work out a compromise. It sounds to me as though you have told him that you are hypoglycemic--which may be true. But you don't really know, as you have not been diagnosed.

Maybe you should try telling your employer that you cannot afford the clinical testing necessary to provide him with a diagnosis; but you do know from life experience that you need a snack every two hours in order to feel energetic and focused--similar to smokers needing a cigarette every two hours. Ask him if you take no longer than five minutes twice a shift at agreed-upon times to snack, can he accommodate that?

The bottom line is that--depending to some degree on your state's employment laws--if you are not effective in your job, you can be fired. Asking for a doctor's note to substantiate your illness is really giving you a chance to be allowed to break or bend the rules to some degree.

Penny is a seasoned human resources executive and consultant with over 25 years of diverse business experience in advising enterprise leaders on employment-related matters.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

These Are the Top 10 'Mega Airports' in North America, According to a New Report

J.D. Power's annual ranking named Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport highest for customer satisfaction for 2023.


AI vs. a Human Touch: Finding The Right Balance When It Comes to Branding

With branding at the forefront of every marketing strategy, finding the balance between AI and genuine human interaction will help brands foster authentic connections and enhance the customer experience, ultimately driving them ahead of the competition and facilitating long-term growth.

Business News

Renowned Federal Judge, 96, Faces Yearlong Suspension For Refusing to Retire

Judge Pauline Newman, a highly respected figure in patent law, has been suspended for one year by her colleagues due to mounting concerns about her mental fitness.

Science & Technology

5 Mistakes I Learned to Avoid When Working With ChatGPT

What I learned from using ChatGPT for business purposes day-to-day across my content websites.

Business News

Christian Influencer Found Guilty of Defrauding Dozens, Ordered to Pay Nearly $90,000

Dana Chanel was the co-owner of two businesses that she heavily promoted to her 1.1 million Instagram followers.

Business News

Uber Eats to Roll Out New Payment Options in 2024, Aiming to Enhance Access to Fresh Groceries for Vulnerable Populations

Starting in 2024, Uber Eats will allow individuals with EBT cards to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to pay for grocery delivery orders.