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Cook County Chamber of Commerce provides business guidance on dealing with employee illness, medical leave during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 16, 2020 12:37PM ● By Editor

By Jim Boyd, Executive Director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce - September 16, 2020

Navigating employee-employer relations during COVID-19 can be confusingThings are different with COVID-19!  When is a doctor’s note needed? What can an employer require for an employee to return to work? How can employees access paid sick leave for COVID?

With the help of Cook County Public Health and Rovena Claxton, HR specialist at North Shore Human Resources Consulting (, the Cook County Chamber has provided the following information to help clarify for employers and employees what the law says about healthcare notes and worksite issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Check out this short presentation by Rovena Claxton on the subject here:

What employee situations require a healthcare provider note during COVID-19 pandemic?
  • There are very few situations when a healthcare note is required for COVID-19. 
    • Some of these include:
      • When completing paperwork for a formal FMLA request or
      • When an employee requests a work accommodation for a medical condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Local healthcare and public health will provide notes for situations that require a healthcare note.
What work-related situations do NOT require a healthcare or public health note during COVID-19? 
  • Most work-related situations involving COVID-19 do NOT require a healthcare note.   
  • Situations that do NOT require a healthcare note include an employee who is out of work due to:
    • COVID-19 illness and isolation
    • Quarantine
    • While awaiting test results
    • Prior to returning to work.
  • Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and Cook County Public Health are unable to provide signed notes verifying dates for these types of situations.
  • An employer may ask the employee to certify or sign a statement attesting to the need for time away from work- but this does not involve a healthcare provider’s signature.
  • I’ve heard there is a program to provide paid sick leave for employees out of work for COVID-related reasons.  Is this true?
What documentation is required for the Families First Coronavirus Act paid sick leave?
The U.S. Department of Labor website provides guidance for employers on what sorts of proof may be required if an employee reports COVID symptoms and requests paid sick leave:
  • How do I seek a credit for funds my business has paid in sick leave with the Families First Coronavirus Act?
What information is required for an employee to return to work after taking sick leave for COVID-related reasons?
  • When the employee is ready to return to work, the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health recommend that employers do not require their employees to get a return to work note from their healthcare provider.
  • The employer may ask the employee to “self-certify” that
    • they are fever-free for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication),
    • it has been 10 days since they first felt sick,
    • and that they feel better. 
  • Additional guidelines on when to return to work after COVID or close contact from Minnesota Department of Health.
  • If specific concerns arise, the employer may contact Cook County Public Health for guidance (218-387-3605, [email protected]).  Please note that in most situations PHHS is not able to discuss private patient information.
Where can I find out more about employer and employee issues around COVID-19 and healthcare provider notes?

Follow this link:

Jim Boyd
Executive Director
Cook County Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 805 
Grand Marais, MN 55604
218-370-9665 (office/cell)
218-387-2466 (home)
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