Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What You Need To Know About Missing Work Due to Illness

Know your employer’s sick leave policy. Most employers require that you call in as soon as you know you won’t make it. No law requires paid sick leave.

Family and Medical Leave: applies if you have a serious medical condition and need several days off, or need intermittent leave for treatment.

Accommodations: if you have an illness that qualifies as a disability, you might be entitled to accommodations that will enable you to perform all the duties of your job.

Excessive absenteeism: unless you qualify for FMLA leave or have a disability for which you are seeking accommodations, your employer can fire you for any reason, including absenteeism. Know what they consider excessive. If you have to come to work sick, that’s better than losing your job.

Donna’s tips:

a. Lots of people express surprise that they were fired after being sick. “But I had a doctor’s note!” they say. A doctor’s note won’t help you unless you qualify for FMLA leave or an ADA accommodation. 90% of life is just showing up. (Woody Allen). Your employer is entitled to have you at work.

b. If you are contagious, then your employer requiring you to come in anyhow might be an OSHA violation. You can point this out, but don’t be insubordinate.

c. If ordered to come in, then rent a stretcher if you have to. Unless going to work endangers your life, comply with the boss’s order to come to work. Appeal to HR if you can, but don’t lose your job.


  1. Well, this post would be of great help to anyone who would come to read this one. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. Damiana

  2. I have to say that I can't agree with this post. No job is worth putting yourself at risk. If you're so sick that you need a "stretcher", you shouldn't be at work. Period, the end. I think it is absolute crap that workplaces don't have to honor doctors and hospital notes. I am experiencing this problem at work right now, but I can tell you that my health is much more important to me than this job. What good is a job if you're dead? It's unfortunately true that your workplace will harass you about absences and not excuse them even when you have perfectly good documentation, and it is certainly true that you will have to go into work sick a lot of times, but DON'T go into work if you're so sick that you will be putting others at risk (you did touch on this in part b), or that you will be potentially harming yourself. Sometimes going to work sick is NOT better than losing your job--it depends on how sick you are.

  3. Yes and no... I disagree with getting a doctors note unless it is life or death. Why lose that time. If you hate your job then find a new one. Don't get a doctors note unless you are contagious. Don't make up reason's. I have had sore shoulders I could have went to the doctors to get a note. But if you want to really do something you won't get a note for that which you can.

    1. It depends on the situation if they have a cold then yeah go in but im dealing with just getting diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 20 so its a little difficult they are being very nice to me i do have doctors notes saying i have to rest in bed i just dont want to get fired

  4. I would like too tell you about Randy Clingerman, Randy had worked for Wal-mart in Simpsonville, sc for a few years from Sam's club and all the wal-mart that had changed out there flooring. Randy became sick in August 2011, Randy had been out of work for about three weeks, Randy received a call from the Wal-mart Simpsonville, sc store Telling Randy. That if he didn't come in they would let him go. Randy went in that night as sick as he was. When Randy got there they took Randy in the Bad office. Told Randy they were letting him Go! Now with out have a job Now having No health Insurance. Randy found out about a Month later that Randy just was sick, But has lung Cancer. Randy never smoked but Did clean floors all the years he worked for Wal-mart

  5. I work at a nursing home there is no way I'm going back to work when I've been diagnosed with pharygitis, two swollen ear drum, conjunjevitis, and bronchitis. Could I work? probably. But I love my residents and have no wish for them to be sick. I have a doctor's note unfortunately I'm also in a work comp case with said employer so my position is pecarious at best.

  6. I work in a factory, I became sick while working there an I passed out while working, I wanted to stay an finish the job even tho they told me I could leave, by the end of the shift my boss told me I need to go get checked out so I went to the dr an he wanted me off work the next day he's gonna send me to a neurologist. I let them know at work I couldn't come in, I was still shaky an feeling dizzy. They fired me over 1 day even though the policy was 3 days in a 30 day period. I don't see how they can do this!!

  7. I work with dementia patients, and I have swollen tonsils and loss voice, and I went in yesterday. My supervisor knew this once I came in and still kept me at work the entire day. Now today, I had to call in because it got worse (I'm the receptionist) due to answering the phones, and I woke up with a fever. My supervisor acted as of she didn't care at all, so that let's me know that my health nor the health of the patients,isn't important to them.

  8. I was told in my last job they could not fire me if I was sick. The manager was clueless. I couldn't believe she would say this to me. They have an employee who abuses the sick time policy. He is never there! They are absolutely clueless about the rights available to them. I'm not about to tell them because it's not my job but they are getting played by this guy.

  9. With a sue happy nation and lazy people only wanting a paycheck, those that really need help are screwed over. I am one of those. I worked all my life above and beyond to get no where. Now that I am sick all the time between testing and at home living in the bathroom I am unemployed with no benefits. Doctors order expensive tests, insurance only pays a little and now I have no job, lots of medical bills and no diagnosis. Doctors best guess "I am not sure". I have no idea what to do next. It is hard to get a new job when I show up sick for the interview. I am good for a few weeks but then my savings will be gone. How do you fool prospective employers I am not sick and can work?

  10. If i called in for wrk in now being put on stand by for me to go back to work do to not having wrk for me but there hirer new guys to wrk in being told i have to wait for a opening to go back but still employed by the company is that legal to do

  11. Started working at Walmart 4 weeks ago told them when i was hired that I was disabled, couldnt lift much, and they started me out on too long of shifts, so they cut them down, I brought in a drs note stating no more than 4-5 hr shifts, they acomodated for 1 1/2 weeks but now went back to 7-9 hr shifts, when i went and approached them today, they said work them or get fired....i got fired. They know i have spinal stenosis, herniated disc, and arthritis of my entire spine, but still did my shifts, the lifting, and ended up in the er after work several times for a pain shot because i could not move. I think it should be illegal for them to not have to follow drs orders, as it endangers the employee and they hired me knowing i was disabled.


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.