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Doctors Note Absence

Is it legal in Minnesota to fire or take disciplinary action against somebody in the work place if they have a doctors note for the time they were absent?

In most cases, yes, a Minnesota employer can take disciplinary action against an employee for an absence, even if the employee has a doctor’s note. This would include giving the employee a written warning or even firing the employee for excessive absenteeism.

In high school, absences are “excused” or “unexcused.” Excused absences are when the student has a note from their parent or a doctor. Unexcused absences are when the student cuts class and has no note.

Many people assume that the same system is at work in the employment world, but that’s not really true. Employers usually have policies that allow them to terminate workers for “excessive absenteeism” even if the worker has a doctor’s excuse. Suppose Sally is a full-time employee who is absent 3 days per week, every week, for sniffles, headaches and other minor ailments. Even if Sally has a doctor’s note for each absence, after a period of time, the employer will have to terminate her, because she is simply not at work often enough to do her job.

Even in high school, the total number of excused absences is limited.

Employers have to establish such policies to prevent malingering by some employees. Suppose Ron has his appointment for an annual physical on Thursday. Ron takes off Tuesday and Wednesday and spends the day at the beach. Then, he goes to the doctor on Thursday and presents the “excuse” to his employer.

The exception would be if the employee takes FMLA leave. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave when they have a “serious health condition.” Normally an employee must inform the employer that the absence was FMLA within 2 days of returning to work. There is no need for the employee to take the entire 12 weeks of leave at once.

Employers who have at least 50 workers within 75 miles must grant FMLA leave. Workers who have been employed for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in that period, qualify for FMLA.

The employer has the right to require medical certification of the “serious health condition” under FMLA. There is a separate form for certification by a doctor, and it is more detailed than the usual doctor’s note.

Minnesota does have a state family leave law that applies to employers with 21 or more workers. However, the

Minnesota law permits employees to take time off for childbirth, to care for a new baby, or to care for a child who is ill. It does not pertain to situations where the employee is ill.   In addition, under state law, any employer must give workers time off to attend parent-teacher conferences and other school events.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 7th, 2008 at 1:20 pm and is filed under
Attendance Management, Hiring and Staffing, Termination.
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