Is it legal for an employer to require someone to come into work when they are sick?

I have been really really sick for the past 4 days. I worked for 2 of those days and I took yesterday off and tried to take today off but they are now saying that I have to come in because there is no coverage. I work in a restaurant and I am running a fever. Is this legal?

Asked on December 1, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No one can force another person to work.  However, an "at will" employer could fire you for not doing so.  Unfortunately, under most employment relationships an employer is legally be permitted  to hire/fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit.  An employee in turn can work for an employer or not, their choice. 

The exceptions to the above would be if there is a stated company policy contrary to the way in which your situation is being handled, or there is a union/employment agreement that does not allow for such action, or this situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination (i.e., for reasons due to your race, religion, age, disability, sex, national origin).  Absent any of the foregoing, your employer's action does not violate the law (although it is incredibly stupid).


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.