Can an employer legally ask you how sick are you when you call in sick?

I work part-time and do not receive any benefits, sick days, personal days, etc. I recently was ill and when I called my manager to inform her that I would not be able to make it to work she asked me, “Well how sick are you?” Can she legally ask that question?

Asked on September 19, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no law about asking an employee how sick he or she is, or with what, and some legitimate reasons that an employer should ask; for example--

* to make sure the employee really was sick

* to see if it was what the employer would consider a valid reason to not come in to work

* to see if the employee possibly poses a threat (e.g. has the flu; could be infectious) and should stay away until well

If you don't have an employment contract, you are an employee at will. As an employee at will, you may be fired at any time, for any reason. If you do not answer the question, the employer could certainly terminate your employment.

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