Warned About Being Sick With Doctor’s Note

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about warning for absences:

I have recently been given a verbal warning at my work place for missing 15 days in work so far this year. However, 12 of those 15 days, I had a doctor’s note to explain my absence. Is is right for my personnel manager to issue that verbal warning?The impression that I get from that is they do not believe the doctors notes.

Signed, Feeling Worse

DearĀ Feeling Worse:

Our focus is on workplace communications rather than HR issues. However, it does seem likely that you and your supervisor or manager are not communicating very well about your absences and the effect they are having on work. Employers expect employees to be at work, especially if they are getting paid during their absences. Even if the time is not paid, employers need staff to be present.

So, although you have a doctor’s note saying you were sick, your employer can warn you that if you can’t be at work they won’t be able to keep you as an employee. That is especially true if your manager or supervisor thinks the doctor notes aren’t valid. Doctors only can take the word of the employee that he or she feels ill, so sometimes notes are not based on actual diagnosis. If you have a good work record and have been honest about everything else, point that out as a way to show that you can be trusted.If you have genuinely been too ill or injured to come to work and do most of your job, you need to talk to your supervisor or manager about it to find out how you can counteract the negative effects of your absences. Your work may not be the kind that would allow you to make up missed tasks. However, if you could do that, it might be helpful.

Consider what it is you do that is not being done in your absence or that someone else has to handle. Maybe you can find a way to off-set that.If you have a chronic illness or condition that keeps you from coming to work, talk to HR and your physician. I understand that you may not want to discuss this with many people, but your employers will need to know your long-term status. Your goal is to let them know that you are dependable and will not be away from work any more than absolutely necessary. If you talk to your supervisor, assure him or her that you don’t enjoy being sick and you want to be at work, so you will do everything possible to make sure you are not absent again. You won’t be able to get rid of the verbal warning, but you may be able to have it fade into history and you can rebuild your reputation for being fully dependable.The bottom line is that if you can be at work, even if you don’t feel your very best, you should be at work. If you simply can’t, you need to to communicating about that with your doctor and your personnel manager.Best wishes with this challenging situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.