Can We Dock an Employee for Using Company Paid Leave? [Reader Question]

sick leaveWe get all kinds of interesting questions about HR, talent, and the workplace, and today is no exception. Have your own question? Shoot it in to us and we’ll keep it anonymous!

Can an employee be docked on a yearly/scored performance evaluation for using their paid sick leave benefit for legitimate medical appointments?

The Purpose of Employer Paid Leave

The purpose of offering leave is to give people options when they need to use their time for something unrelated to work, such as personal medical appointments. From a practical standpoint, it makes little sense to punish people for using the benefit you have offered them, especially if (like many sick leave plans) the time expires at the end of the year without carrying over. It’s no different than offering to pay for someone’s meal and then being angry at them for eating it.

That said, I understand the need to focus on performance and productivity. If someone is not able to get the essential functions of their job done even with time off as an accommodation, it may be time to speak with your employment attorney about the best next step. Even if the person stays, you need to take care to focus on performance, not the medical appointments, in your conversations (both formal and informal).

[If you enjoy this, you might also like How to Legally Avoid Paying Overtime Wages.]

Why jump to an attorney on this one? Because this conversation is probably edging over into Americans with Disabilities Act territory, especially if the medical issues are disrupting major life activities (taking a lot of time off work for managing an issue is a big red flag).

Lots of Issues with Sick and Vacation Time

It’s worth noting that we’ve covered points on this spectrum of using paid leave a number of times in the past. Employers often regret offering so much or actually pressure workers to use little of it, which makes it a “bait and switch” kind of scam when workers find out you don’t actually want them using those three weeks of vacation or the five sick days they were offered at the start of their employment. These are worth checking out: