IfI hurt myself at work and got a doctor’s note saying that I needed to be off for 3 daysbut my employer forced me to stay, what are my rights?

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IfI hurt myself at work and got a doctor’s note saying that I needed to be off for 3 daysbut my employer forced me to stay, what are my rights?

I lifted a battery recently at my work and it pulled something in my back so I went to the hospital to see what was wrong. The doctor gave me a note saying to be off work for 3 days and to have rest and over the counter pain meds. I brought this note back to work and notified my employer and they told me that they would put me on light duty. When I reminded them that my note said 3 days off and that I was supposed to get rest, they simply said, “You can get rest on one of the chairs”. I eventually got to go home for the day but they made me return the next day. I then caught the flu, missing the next 3 days, now they want a second doctor’s note.

Asked on January 27, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your doctor has no authority over your employer--the law does not require an employer to honor a doctor's note, as a general matter. Also, the law does not require employers to give employees time off from work for medical issue, unless either 1) the employer and employee are both covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the employee takes FMLA leave; or 2) the employer and employee are both covered under a state medical leave law.

To be covered by FMLA, the employer must have at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius; you must have worked there, more-or-less full time, for a year; and also, the condition must be sufficiently serious. Most state leave laws are fairly similar, so while you should check your state's law, it will likely have roughly comparable criteria.

If you are not covered by FMLA or its equivalent in your state (if any; some states don't have any leave laws), then the employer does not need to give you leave except as provided by its own internal policies. For example, if your company gives you paid sick days, you could presumably use them.

So if you are not covered by a leave law, and you are not also given time by the employer's polices (such as sick day policy), they don't have to let you take time off. If you did not show up for work in that circumstance, they could have fired you.


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