Why do people go to work when they are sick? While there are a lot of different reasons, the most common is the fear of getting fired for being sick. Or more specifically, getting fired for calling in sick and taking the time off of work that you need to heal. Are employers allowed to do this?
Why We Should Stay Home When We Are Sick
When you’re sick, you should stay home. In fact, you shouldn’t just stay home from work. You should stay home from school, social gatherings, and all other places if you can. Why? Because staying home to rest is how you heal quickest. Your body is telling you it needs to stay home.
Moreover, if you’re sick, you can spread illness to others. The more that sick people are out in the world, the more people there are catching that sickness. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that. So, for the sake of yourself as well as others, you should stay home when you are sick.
Short-Term Sickness vs. Chronic Illness
It’s worth noting that there are different kinds of “sick” to consider. If you have the flu, which you can spread to others, then the above applies. On the other hand, if you have a chronic but non-communicable illness, then things might be a little bit different for you. Could you go to work? Do you want to? Would working exacerbate your chronic illness? There are a lot of things to take into consideration when determining whether or not to go to work when you are ill.
Can You Be Fired for Being Sick?
The problem is that a lot of people don’t feel as if they have the option to stay home when they’re sick, whether from short-term or chronic illness. Their workplace or specific employer may put undue pressure on them to come to work no matter how sick they may be. Whether it’s a spoken rule or an unspoken norm, you might feel like you can be fired for being sick. But, legally, can you be fired for being sick?
The short, although complicated, answer is that technically your boss can’t fire you for being sick. However, they can often opt to let you go or reassign you to a different position depending on the circumstances. That said, you have rights and opportunities for recourse if that occurs.
Different Variables At Play
Again, you might have different answers and options depending on whether you call in sick for the flu or you have a chronic illness that takes you away from work. Likewise, your options may depend on the type of work that you do. If you have a part-time job with no paid sick leave, your options may differ from those of someone who has a full-time, tenured position with ample sick leave available.
Find Out What Your Options Are
Since everyone has different situations, you might want to start by finding out what the options and rules are for your specific case. You can start by reading over your employment contract to see if it provides any information. For example, you might discover that you can’t be fired for being sick but you have to bring in proof from a doctor that you’ve been ill. Or you might find that if a chronic illness prevents you from meeting the minimum qualifications to do the job you were hired to do, then your employer has the legal right to let you go.
In addition to checking over your employment contract, you can learn more about your rights and options through:
- Your company’s HR department
- The union that you are a part of for your job
- Local employment law attorneys (who sometimes offer free consultations)
- Research the local rules, codes, and ordinances for your city, county, state, and/or country of employment
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
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