Can an employer fire you for being absent if you have doctor’s notes?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer fire you for being absent if you have doctor’s notes?

I was absent from work for 3 weeks due to a medical condition I have that my job is fully aware of. I have all of the doctor’s notes and documentation to prove I was out for a medical reason. When I returned to work my senior manager told me that my absences were unexcused regardless of my documentation. He forced me to put in an FMLA claim and told me if it wasn’t approved we would have to have another discussion regarding my place with the company. In other words he meant that I would be terminated. I’m just wondering is this legal? Do I have to put in an FMLA claim just to keep my job or are the doctor’s notes enough?

Asked on June 22, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Doctors notes are NOT enough: your doctor has no authority over your employer, and the law does not make employers retain employees who miss work. You are only allowed to miss work even for medical reasons if 1) you have and use sufficient paid time off (e.g. sick or vacation days) to cover the absence, and/or 2) you are eligible for, your employer covered by, and you use FMLA leave. If you miss work without using PTO or FMLA, it is an unauthorized absence and you may be terminated.

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 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.

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