If I was fired for an absence for which I had a doctor’s excuse, what can I do?

I should also note that my supervisor had been telling other employees he couldn’t wait to get rid of me.

Asked on March 23, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

People commonly believe that an employer has to respect a doctor's note or excuse; however, that is not generally the case:

1) The doctor is not an executive or manager of the employer and has no authority over it.

2) Employers do not have to provide sick days or even allow excusd unpaid sick live (unless the employer, employee, and the situation are all covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which this situation most likely was not--if you want to see if you did meet the FMLA criteria, go to the U.S. Department of Labor website). Since they don't have to provide these things, an employer could choose to teminate employees who have unapproved or unauthorized absences, even if there was a doctor's note. (Note: if you had and used sick days, that would be different; you should not be terminated for using a benefit, sick days, which you earned as part of your compensation, as long as you complied with company policy on sick days.)

3) Unless you had an employment contract, you were an employee at will, and generally could be fired at any time, for any reason, without prior warning or notice.

An employer could therefore fire an employee who was absent from work, even with a doctor's note, in many or most cases.

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