Sick On The Job!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about sick at work:

My question is very simple, but at the same time its kind of complex. You see, this morning I woke up for work and felt kind of ill and rather weak. However I pushed on to go to work. I walk to work everyday, and today I was vomiting on my way to work. I get into work, and I vomited in the back of the restaurant in the parking lot before my shift starts. They didn’t even mention about sending me home. So I told them I was going home. I am still under a probationary period at this place, and they made the comment about me possibly getting fired for leaving. Is that illegal somehow? Can a place make you stay and work even when you are ill? More importantly at a restaurant?

Signed, Working Sick

Dear Working Sick:

Most companies are “employers at will.” This means they can discharge an employee “at will” for any reason at any time. If an employer discharges an employee who is absent for illness, that employee would probably qualify for unemployment benefits if the employee files a claim with the appropriate office with the Department of Labor. You should be commended for going into work when you were ill — trying to do the right thing. However, because your work is at a restaurant, if you are ill, you probably should just call in sick. But now that you are at work, and sick, you should go to your employer and inform him that you are sick, that you came to work hoping you would fell better, but you are unable to work and must go home. The comment that was made to you, about possibly getting fired, was inappropriate by your employer. I would say the employer can’t keep you at work because you can simply get up and walk out.

Can they fire you for doing so? Yes, they could do so. As soon as possible, go to your supervisor and ask for a clear procedure to follow if you are sick at work and feel you need to go home. Thinking ego is big of me. Thinking WEGO includes both thee and me. Your concern for your own health is good, and acting to not infect others is thinking WEGO.

Gerald Allen, Guest Respondent with HR Experience