How many sick days is my employer legally required to provide?

Question:

I started a new job as a pizza delivery driver about six months ago. My attendance record has been perfect for the most part. But last week, I came down with a terrible cold. I’ve had to miss three shifts so far. My supervisor told me that if I don’t come to work tomorrow, I’m fired. Is this legal? Doesn’t my employer have to give me a certain number of sick days?

Answer:

Unfortunately, there are no federal laws that require employers to provide sick days to employees. However, in recent years, an increasing number of states and cities have passed paid sick leave laws to protect employees in your situation. Currently, three states offer some sort of paid sick leave: Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts. A handful of cities have passed similar laws, including San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Washington D.C. If you’re fortunate enough to live in one of these areas, you may be entitled to paid time off and protection from being fired.

If you don’t live in one of these areas, you may be out of luck. While there are some federal laws that provide unpaid time off for sick employees, these laws usually apply only in cases of serious illness or disability. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides unpaid leave to employees with serious health conditions. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, which may include unpaid time off.

Because it’s common for employees to get the occasional cold or sickness, many employers choose to create sick leave or PTO policies, even if not required to by law. Check your Employee Handbook to see if your employer has a sick leave policy; if so, your employer must follow it.

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