Can you be terminated for attendance if you have a doctor’s excuse?

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Can you be terminated for attendance if you have a doctor’s excuse?

I’ve been working for a company for a little over 4 months and just recently received a written warning for attendance. I had my gallbladder removed not long after I started. I was told that we had “flex” time and as long as we worked 40 hours it was OK to be late occasionally or go to doctor’s appointments. I’ve occasionally been late, but have always made up my time. Today I was written up for attendance and told that I had 90 days to turn things around and during that time I miss work without prior approval or performance issues. This seems excessive. I’ve never had a verbal warning or performance issues.

Asked on August 5, 2011 Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A "doctor's excuse" (or note) has no general legal effect; an employer does NOT need to allow employees to take time off for medical reasons--unless the employee is actually disabled, and also the time off would be considered a "reasonable accomodation" to the disability; or the employee and employer both qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or similar state law, and the employee takes time under that law. Otherwise, employers don't need to provide sick days, allow absences for doctor visits, etc.--they can fire employees who don't show up for work.

That said, if there is either a firm policy (one without limitations or caveats) allowing flex time or a specific agreement between you and the employer allowing flex time, that policy or agreement is likely enforceable. So long as you are fully complying with it, it may be the case that you should not be punished for working within its terms or conditions. An issue, however, may be whether you are actually complying with all terms--e.g. are you taking more time than intended? Not making it up fast enough? Etc.


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