Can you be fired from work if you missed time to due verified doctor’s appointments?

My husband was on probation at work. He had to take days off for doctor visits and ER room. However he received doctor notes for any days missed and his job never wrote him up. Then, after 16 years, when he went in after calling work he was fired for it. Can he sue? If so, what’s the next step? If not, what can he do?

Asked on March 10, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The big issue is, was your husband an employee at will? That is, did he have an employment contract, including a union agreement, covering his job and limiting the grounds for which he could be fired? If he didn't have such a contract, then he was an employee at will, and an employee at will may essentially be fired at any time, for any reason, including bad or unfair reasons. There's no general right to take time off from work for a doctor, so if your husband was an employee at will, he might not have any recourse.

You don't state whether the company had a call-in policy or your husband had--and used--a sick day for this appointment. If there was a firm policy that employees could miss work if they called in, that *might* be enough to create an implied contract--though the policy would have to rock solid firm. If you think that's the case, it may be worth consulting with an employment attorney.

Note that if your husband had sick days or other PTO he could have used and did not, that itself could easily be enough to cause his termination; employees who have PTO they could use are expected to use it for doctor's appointments and the like.

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