Can Employees Be Punished for Calling Out Sick?

Calling in sick too often can cause problems at work.

Calling in sick too often can cause problems at work.

While we all need to take a sick day every once in awhile, abusing the privilege can hurt your career. In some cases, calling out sick a lot can simply hurt your chances of a promotion or raise. If your employer gets really frustrated, however, you may find yourself facing an official reprimand, or even losing your job.

Sick Days

As of 2012, the only state that requires employers to provide paid sick days is Connecticut, although a few cities, such as San Francisco, require local businesses to offer sick leave. If you don't live in a state or city that requires sick leave, the number of sick days that you get depends on your employer's policies.

Employer Policies

To find out your employer's policies on sick days and calling into work when you don't feel well, check your employee handbook. Most employers understand that sickness and accidents happen, but you'll still be expected to notify your supervisor promptly if you can't make it to work. Some employers are very specific about the steps you need to take if you won't be in. You may be told to call your supervisor, instead of using email, and you may need to document your illness or injury with a doctor's note if you are out of the office for more than a few days.


If you have a health problem that may result in your taking more time off work than your sick leave allows, you may still be able to save your job. Depending on your condition and your employer's policies, you might be able to arrange to work from home on days that you aren't feeling well. Some employers offer both short and long term disability insurance that allows you to take time off work while retaining your benefits and all or most of your salary. If your employer is subject to the Family Medical Leave Act, you may also have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work while you are unable to work or are caring for a sick family member.


Many companies have very strict absenteeism rules, so it's important that you fully understand your employer's policies. Failing to show up for work without notifying your supervisor, even just once, is grounds for immediate termination at some companies. Your company may also have rules about what you can or cannot do while on extended sick leave. For example, your company may have a policy that you need to stay local while ill or in recovery from an injury. If you need to travel, you must get permission or provide notification to your employer. If you get fired because you violated work absenteeism policies and your employer has warned you several times about your conduct, you may have difficulty claiming unemployment.

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About the Author

Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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