Can a boss tell an employee to go on disability because they have multiple doctor visits?

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Can a boss tell an employee to go on disability because they have multiple doctor visits?

My wife has a pain in her side and has been to the doctor several times. Her boss told her that she is out too much and that she needs to have her doctor put her on disability. She may have missed one or two days a week for the last month; other than that she has been a model employee. She is also one of the key trainers for new hires. However her boss does seem to have control issues herself. Lately she informed everyone in a group meeting that they will examine absentees and anyone in violation will be terminated. My wife has doctor notes for every absence.

Asked on April 20, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Except to the extent there is (1) an employment agreement to the contrary, and/or (2) employees are using their earned/accrued paid time off (e.g. sick days or vacation days), within company guidelines, for any doctor visits, there is no right to miss time for medical care. A company may terminate employees for absenteeism, even if its for doctors' visits. The other exceptions, beyond the above, would be if the employee is using a state or federal employment benefit that protects their job, such as (3) being out on approved disabiltiy pursuant to state law, or (4) taking unpaid leave (with proper notice) under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA; though note that not all companies and not all employees are covered--there are eligibility criteria). So, whether or  not your wife's boss has control issues, she may terminate staff for improper absenteeims, unless, per (1) - (4) above, the absenteeism is in some way permitted.

(One other exception: if your wife's condition rises to the level of "disability"--and most medical conditions do not; there has to be an element of permance, or at least long-standingness, plus also that it can't be readily ameliorated or controlled--then it *might* be the case that the company has to make reasonable accommodations for her, such as in scheduling, if she requests them and the company can do it without undue cost or disruption.)


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