What to do if I have been denied the right to attend a medical appointment?

I have been attending my registered domestic partners’ medical appointments. We are seeing a doctor who is assisting with pregnancy. My boss and CEO has stated I cannot attend the next 2 appointments because it will result in inadequate coverage at the clinic where I am the director. There is no policy nor is it in my job description that there be coverage. I have offered to be available by phone/email before, during and after the appointments. I will be missing a maximum of 3 hours for each appointment. Can she deny me the right to go? If I do go anyway, can I be disciplined/fired? I am an exempt employee.

Asked on March 20, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An employer is not required to allow an employee to attend a domestic partner's (or spouse's, or parent's, or child's) medical appointments, unless and only if the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or similar state law is implicated. However, those laws (using FMLA as a model) typically only apply to taking time off for an immediate family member's "serious" health condition--for example, something which would require three days or more of hospitalization, or require an extended period of treatment and recovery at home. Attending regular doctor's appointments relating to fertility or pregnancy would not fall under that rubric, so even if the other criteria for coverage under FMLA or a like law were met (e.g. that there be, under FMLA, 50 employees or more), you would not be legally entitled to take the time. Therefore, the employer can state that you cannot take the time off, if they feel they need the coverage.


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