Can I legally be fired if I have doctor’s documentation regarding my absences?

UPDATED: Aug 31, 2011

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Can I legally be fired if I have doctor’s documentation regarding my absences?

I have been with this company for over 3 years and have dealt with numerous health issues and have had to miss work. I have medical documentation for each occurrence. I suffer from migraines which I am actually in the process of intermittent FMLA but this last Sunday I broke my left foot and had to sit in the ER all day and almost all night Monday, therefore, missing another full day of work. I was informed by my manager yesterday that HR wants a meeting with her and more than likely my job will be terminated as of Friday or no later than Monday due to my attendance. Can they do this legally?

Asked on August 31, 2011 Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

They may be able to terminate you if--

You have exceeded your time on FMLA and also have no paid time off (e.g. vacation or sick days) to use, so that you absent is therefore an unexcused absence; or

Even if you still have some time available to you (either PTO or FMLA leave), you did not call in about the absence when you could have (i.e. a broken ankle does not  prohibit you from calling, texting, emailing, etc.), and so--despite ostensibly having time available to seek medical care--you still ended up taking an excused absence and/or violating company policy about how to call in. Companies can still expect, even when an employee has time for a doctor, hospital, etc. visit, that they will contact the company.

A doctor's note by itself means nothing--companies only have to allow employees to take time to the extent they have, and properly use, PTO or FMLA leave; there is no obligation to allow absences simply on a doctor's say-so.

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