Sick Leave Refused—Can an Employer Deny Sick Days Off?

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Can Employers Deny a Sick Day Request?

Before calling in sick, you spend a few minutes revising what you’re going to say to your boss. Like most employees, you probably fear your employer will say no, and you’ll be forced to go to work sick.

Can an employer deny sick days off? In this article, we’ll explain if and when your employer can do it and what laws mandate sick leave so you don’t end up sick at work. We’ll also show you how you can to ensure your sick leave request is rock-solid.

Can an Employer Deny a Sick Day?

The answer is—sometimes.

Only two federal laws exist that regulate sick leave:

  1. The Family and Medical Act (FMLA)
  2. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)

Under the FMLA, all companies with at least 50 staff members must provide 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave to all employees within a 12-month period.

The EPSLA is a temporary act that provides ten days of paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic to all employees who test positive for the virus—regardless of the company’s size.

Both of these acts have qualifying reasons for sick leave—take a look at the following table to see what is considered a valid reason in each case:

  • Serious health condition
  • Care for a member of your family with a serious health condition
  • Childbirth
  • Child adoption
  • Any reason that arises from a member of your family being on active military duty
  • Quarantine
  • Symptoms of or similar to COVID-19
  • Care for a child in quarantine or whose school closed because of the pandemic

If you don’t meet the requirements, the employer is not obligated to approve your request.

Doctor’s Note Rules

The employer may require you to present a doctor’s note that proves your necessity for sick leave. Rules about the note vary depending on the law, but the general rule is to submit a doctor’s note if your leave lasts more than three days.

If you don’t have a note or the note is not valid, the employer can deny your request. To be valid, the note must contain:

  • Diagnosis
  • Examination date and time
  • Recommended time off
  • Contagious status (if necessary)
  • Doctor’s name and signature

Are There Any Other Laws Regarding Sick Leave?

In addition to federal acts, there may be laws on a state or local level. Before applying for leave, you should check out your city, county, or state laws to see if you have another sick day rule to rely on.

Does My Employer Have To Pay Me for Sick Days?

If there’s a law about paid sick leave that affects your company, then yes. The EPSLA requires paid leave for COVID-19 patients in excess of $5,110 for ten days.

Whether your employer should provide paid time off also depends on state and local laws. Consult the following table for guides to state-specific regulations:

CaliforniaArizonaPennsylvaniaNorth Carolina
MichiganFloridaVirginiaNew York
WashingtonColoradoVermontRhode Island
New JerseyDistrict of ColumbiaOhioGeorgia

Can an Employer Penalize You for Using Sick Time?

Your employer may not punish you in any way unless they suspect (and can prove) your abuse of sick leave. Misuse usually manifests as:

  • Repeated, unscheduled sick leave around weekends
  • Repeated sick leave during undesirable shifts or duties
  • Sick leave requests when other types get denied

How To Make a Perfect Sick Leave Request Using DoNotPay

You can call in sick via phone or, more conveniently, email. If you’re not sure what your request should look like, hand over the writing to the pros!

Our app will draft a professional sick leave request letter based on the information you provide and the laws that apply to your case. You only need to and do the following:

  1. Choose the Request Sick Leave feature
  2. Specify the state where your company is located
  3. Answer some questions about the company
  4. Insert the dates on which you’ll be absent from work
  5. Notify us if you want the app to send the request to your employer

If your employer doesn’t approve your sick leave request or, worse, fires you for taking time off, you can send demand letters to them using our Small Claims Court tool.

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