Being Sick is Bad Enough. Don’t Risk Discipline by Insisting to Work

Some employees persist in coming to work when they are ill. This may be misplaced stoicism, a fear of doctors or illness, or simply a desire not to lose income or “waste” sick pay. For whatever reason, these workers create a dangerous environment for their co-workers by spreading germs. It also decreases individual and team efficiency, and sends a less-than-welcoming message to customers. Thus, employers are within their rights to send the stubborn home.

Employees who are sniffing and hacking their way through the workday create an unpleasant environment. Other employees may feel their own health is being disrespected or endangered. Employers are smart to send ill employees home, allowing them to rest and recover and preserving the good health of the remainder of the workforce. Those who refuse to leave when told to do so by a supervisor can face discipline, up to and including termination.

Currently, under California law, employers must offer employees at least three days, or 24 hours, of paid sick leave per year. However, some cities, including San Diego and San Francisco, require that employers offer additional paid sick leave. This state law covers not just full-time employees, but temporary, part-time, and seasonal employees as well. It is meant to advance public health by guarding against individual economic harm.

Reasonable employers understand the financial pressures of illness and the Hobson’s choice ill health presents, whether they deal with hourly employees or highly salaried senior staff. Communication with ill employees, whether it’s a short-term illness or more serious affliction, is important. Employers need to understand what their employees face, while maintaining a healthy and efficiently functioning workforce. Open communication and mutual cooperation is the best path forward to good health for all.