When Is It Okay to Call in Sick?

by Evil HR Lady on December 15, 2020

My parents instilled in me a work ethic that says you have to be dying before you skip work or school. I’m not alone.

Add to that, the lack of paid sick days that many Americans have and you have a lot of sick people at work. (And let’s talk about schools that give attendance awards–talk about a dumb thing to praise. “Congrats you either didn’t get sick or you came in and got your students and teachers sick! Good job!”)

Covid-19 changed a lot of mindsets. Suddenly not only should you stay home, but many people were under government-mandated quarantines. The Family First Corona Response Act required businesses with fewer than 500 people to pay people for quarantine time, and you know what happened? People stayed home when they were sick and 400 people per day were spared infection due to this act.

Hopefully, we’ve all learned from this, and will continue to stay home when we are sick. (FFCRA expires on December 31, and I have heard nothing about extensions.)

So when should you stay home from work? I ask because I saw this tweet today that said this: “It’s 5 am and I’m drinking tea because I have a migraine, my entire body is aching, and I’ve gotten maybe 3 hours of sleep. Can someone please tell me it’s ok to call out of work?”

Migraines are hellis but not contagious, but she should absolutely stay home from work. There is no point in being at work and not being able to work. So, here’s a list of when you should stay home from work:

  1. You have a migraine that leaves you unable to work. (Exception: Chronic migraines for which you need ADA accommodations, then you work per the accommodation.)
  2. You have a fever. The CDC defines a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or 38 degrees celsius or feeling feverish and having a hot forehead. Got that? Your thermometer can say 99.8 and you can still be considered fevered. Stay home.
  3. You are vomiting or suffering from diarrhea. You may feel noble going into work, but no one wants you around when you are puking or suffering from other-end-ailment. Please, please, please stay home.
  4. You have other symptoms that indicate you are contagious–coughing, snot, etc. Or a contagious rash. Or any number of other things that your coworkers do not wish to get.
  5. You feel like crap, although not due to excessive alcohol consumption the night before.
  6. You’re overwhelmed emotionally and need a day to collect yourself. I truly think this is a legitimate use of sick time.

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other reasons you should stay home. If you have a serious health condition, please ask about an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act or leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

If you’re a business owner, please, please, please, offer sick days. It’s much better for your business to have sick people at home.

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