Can I Be Fired for Calling in Sick?
Arizona's newly updated sick leave laws took effect on July 1, 2017. The most sweeping change brought about by the new law is that nearly all Arizona employers are now required to provide paid sick time to employees.
When large changes to state policy are made, however, the changes can also bring about uncertainty.
For example, some employees may be left wondering whether calling in sick is now a terminable offense under the new sick leave law.
Here is a closer look at how employees are supposed to use paid sick leave.
How Arizona's Paid Sick Leave Works
The new law makes it clear that paid sick leave can be used for a broad range of valid reasons.
If you use paid sick leave for a personal physical illness, mental illness, injury or health condition, know that these are valid reasons.
You can also use your paid sick leave to take care of a sick family member as well, such as a child.
Even situations that do not involve illness, strictly speaking, can be resolved by using paid sick leave.
If an employee is experiencing domestic violence, abuse or stalking, using paid sick leave to address these situations is also warranted.
With these uses in mind, it is clear that merely calling in sick is not grounds for termination.
In fact, employees are not even required to provide notice before taking sick leave.
That said, the new law does require employees to make a good faith effort to notify an employer, and sick leave requests can be made verbally, electronically or in writing when the need to use sick leave is anticipated.
Can Employers Fire Employees for Using Sick Leave?
Once an employee has been absent for three or more consecutive days, an employer also has the right to request proof or documentation of the illness.
This requirement is not too stringent, however, as even an employee's own signed statement may be considered sufficient documentation.
If the leave was taken for illness reasons, it may still be best to include a doctor's note for documentation.
Given these broad protections, the short answer is that the new sick leave law could make it difficult for an employer to fire you if sick leave is used.
In fact, there is even a provision within the new law stating that anyone who takes protected sick leave within 90 days of termination can presume that the firing was taken in retaliation for using the sick leave.
In short, you have a right to exercise your sick leave rights under the new Arizona law.
This right makes it a challenge for employers to prove that adverse actions such as firings were not based on an employee taking paid sick leave.
Effectively, then, a carryover effect of this protection is that businesses may have a hard time disciplining their workers.
Arizona employees should know that a firing within 90 days of when you took sick leave can be used as evidence that the employer wrongly took adverse action against you because of using the sick leave to which you were entitled by law.
If you have any questions or concerns about using sick leave in light of your employee's policies or the new law, contact Tyler Allen Law Firm, PLLC for a legal consultation.