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Can an Employer Force You to Work When You're Sick? | Fairygodboss
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How to Call Out Sick When You’ve Run Out of Personal Days
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  • Your employer cannot force you to come to work if you're sick; under the FMLA, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for yourself if you're experiencing serious health issues.
  •  If you're unable to perform the basic functions of your role, then you should not work until you're able to.

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Is working while sick illegal?

It's technically not illegal to go to work when you're sick, but you should avoid doing so if you can, especially if you're experiencing severe health conditions. 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your employer can oblige you to stay home if they believe you'll pose a threat to the workplace or have been exposed to an infectious disease, such as COVID-19.

Can an employer make you come to work if you are sick?

Your employer cannot force you to come to work if you're sick. Under the The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn child, an immediate family member or yourself if you're experiencing serious health issues.

Eligible employees include individuals who've worked for their employer (of 50+ employees) for a year or the equivalent of 1,250 hours over 12 consecutive months.

If you're not covered by the FMLA, you may also be entitled to sick days or personal days. Check in with your employee handbook, your job contract or your manager for details. 

How sick do you have to be to miss work?

Simply put, sick enough to be unable to work or sick enough to be contagious. If you're unable to perform the basic functions of your role, then you should not work until you're able to.

If your illness is contagious, especially if it requires medical attention, you should not be working by others or at all until you're feeling 100 percent. Not only does this ensure the safety of the individuals you work with, but it also helps you avoid worsening your condition by trying to perform activities that can cause you physical or mental harm.

Can you sue if you get fired for being sick?

If you were fired because you missed work due to a serious health condition defined under the FMLA, you may have a legal claim for wrongful termination

Why do people work when they're sick?

Some individuals go to work sick because they can't afford not to; they may have used up all their sick days, may need the income from their hourly wage or may be pressured by their employers to come to work.

How can you limit the exposure to others?

The most significant way to limit exposure to others is to stay home or work from home if you can. If you must be near others, distance yourself at least 6 feet, wear a mask and gloves and wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds.

What about people who don’t have sick days?

Sick leave and PTO vary from state to state, but if you've run out of sick days, you should either use your personal days to give yourself time off or tap into your vacation days if you need to take time off. 

You may be able to take additional sick days, but they may not be paid; check in with your employer for their particular policy, as they are only entitled to abide by the time-off policy outlined in your contract.

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