Employers don't have to offer sick or vacation time in most parts of California, but those who do must follow state labor laws. The laws spell out when and why you can use any sick time you have, but don't regulate when or if you need to bring in a doctor's note. Rules will vary by employers, so ask about any company policies about bringing in a doctor's note when you are out sick.
Wake up with a headache or sore throat and you may legally be allowed to call in sick, especially if you can't work as a result of how you feel. Section 233 of the California Labor Code stipulates that you can use sick time, if you have it, if you are mentally or physically unable to work, are hurt, or have a medical condition. You can also use sick time when your child or other immediate family member is sick or if you have a doctor's appointment. Your employer's sick-leave policy should include whether you need to bring in a doctor's note when you are sick. Even if your employer doesn't require it, bringing in one can't hurt.
San Francisco Sick Leave
San Francisco has its own rules in place about sick times. Work in the city, even if your employer is based somewhere else, and she must let you earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. Companies with fewer than 10 employees can cap accrued sick time at 40 hours. Companies with more than 10 employees can cap sick time at 72 hours. While you can carry over accrued sick time year to year, your employer does not have to pay you for any sick time you haven't used if you quit or are fired. If you work in San Francisco, ask your employer about any company policies on getting a doctor's note when you use sick time.
If you use sick time, then your boss can't discipline, demote, suspend or fire you for using that sick time, according to Section 234 of the California Labor Code. If you feel your employer has penalized you for taking a sick day, the California Department of Labor can help.
If you want to take time off before or after you have a baby, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing protects your legal right to do so. You can take up to an unpaid four-month leave, and longer in some cases. Since your employer doesn't have to pay you while you're out on leave, using any accrued time off you have, sick time or otherwise, will give you some income while you're bonding with your baby.
Other Paid Time Off
You may not be able to cash in any unused sick time when you leave a job, but your employer has to pay you for any unused vacation or other earned time you have. California treats time off you earn -- except sick time -- like wages. Once you've earned the time off, your employer cannot take it away from you. You can also use this time for any reason. Your employer may even let you use vacation days to cover days when you're sick, especially if she doesn't offer sick time or if you've used any sick time you've accrued.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.