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

UPDATED: Aug 5, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.

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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