Can my employer use a sick day as an unexcused absence if I have PTO to cover it?

A new policy at my workplace is as follows: If an employee calls out because they are sick, that call out is listed as an "Absence", even if the employee has time-off to draw from. After 6 "absences" the employee will be terminated. Is this legal, to use days that are called in due to sickness as a 'mark' against the employee even if they have accumulated the time off to cover that day?? Can my employer fire me if I call in sick 6 times in one year if I still have a balance of PTO (personal time off- that includes sick time & vacations)??

PS. My employer defines sick days as things like scheduled doctor's appointments and not a day when you call out because you are sick.

1 answer  |  asked Feb 12, 2011 10:31 PM [EST]  |  applies to Massachusetts

Answers (1)

Kevin McGann
There are no laws (that apply to this situation) that force employers to offer short-term sick leave, or even paid-vacation. Unless you have a contract or a union, each employer can have their own policy, or no policy, about this. The policy is usually written in a handbook or employee manual. You say you have a set amount of PTO (“sick time and vacation”) promised to you. The way that is scheduled and distributed is up to the employer. It sounds like the employer has changed the rules of the game for all employees. Usually personal-time off and vacations are things they expect you to schedule in advance. It is not against the law for an employer to rule that six “absences” will lead to termination, as long as that rule is applied uniformly. If you stay with this job, you may want to get clarification from HR as to what to do if you are too sick to report to work. You could also look at this situation as a statement that you have 6 "sick" days, marked as absences, and after that you will be terminated, and you also have whatever personal time and vacation is allotted. Check that with your employer.

posted by Kevin McGann  |  Feb 15, 2011 9:08 PM [EST]

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