9 Legal Reasons to Call Out of Work

That brutal winter cough. The eye doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off for a year and a half. Your son falls off the monkey bars and needs a cast. Your fourteen-year-old dog dies. Your basement floods. You’re just plain tired.

By: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Sometimes, employees need to call out of work. Not only is it expected, but it is perfectly okay to do so. There are plenty of reasons why an employee might call out of work, so let’s review some.

Being sick is a perfectly good reason for calling out of work. Of course, it depends a bit on how one is feeling. If it’s a minor headache, an employee might pop an Advil and go to work. However, if the employee is bedridden and unable to do any work, let alone sit up, then it is best for he or she to stay home and rest. Even for remote employees, sometimes it is best to call out from work and sleep off the illness. The best work is done when healthy, so a good employer should be understanding.

Example: Greta wakes up feeling awful. She has a fever of 101 degrees and can barely keep her eyes open. Still, she has a project at work due soon. She gets in her car and realizes that there is no way she will be able to sit through an hour commute without passing out. She calls her employer and lets him know that she will be taking the day off to get better and will work double-time on the project when she returns to the office.

2. Can you call out sick for a doctors appointment?

It is important to keep track of one’s health. Therefore, going to a doctor’s appointment is a legitimate reason to call out of work. It may even be possible to only miss half a day or a few hours to attend the appointment.

Example: Lewis is overdue for his dental cleaning. In fact, he hasn’t seen the dentist in a year. He lets his boss know that he will be taking a few hours off work to get his cleaning done. It turns out that Lewis has a root canal, and he contemplates this as he returns to work for the second half of the day.

3. Is a family emergency a good excuse to miss work?

Unfortunately, family emergencies do happen, and it is often necessary (and important) that an employee takes time off from work to address them. These emergencies may include an injured pet, a suddenly ill relative, or a child falling ill at school.

Example: Mona is at work when she gets a frantic call from her son. Their dog Baxter has been hit by a car and needs immediate veterinary attention. Mona takes the rest of the day off to drive home and take Baxter to the vet. Baxter recovers, and Mona goes back to work the next day.

4. Can you call out sick for a family member?

When a family member is sick, especially a child, an employee may be needed at home to play nurse or watch over an unattended sick minor.

Example: Wesley is woken up one morning by his son Jackson complaining of a stomachache. Lo and behold, Jackson has caught the flu from his kindergarten. Wesley’s wife is away on business, so Wesley calls out of work on the grounds that he is taking care of his sick son. He spends the day heating up soup, measuring out Tylenol, and watching Scooby Doo reruns.

5. Is death a good excuse to miss work? Can you get fired for calling off for a family death?

Death is a part of life but is still hard to process, and therefore the passing of a loved one is an entirely valid reason to call out of work. While for some work could prove a welcome distraction during a difficult period, it is best to take time off to grieve.

Example: Dorothy is devastated to hear of her grandmother’s death, and she requests time off work to go to the funeral and grieve her beloved family member. She knows that if she went to work, there would be way for her to focus when processing such a heavy loss.

You may not get fired for calling off work for a family member death. You may not get fired for grieving a family member’s death.

6. Household Emergency

Every homeowner or renter knows that emergencies happen, which will require contractors, time, and money. Whether it’s a flood, a leak, or a discovery of toxic mold, calling out of work to repair the problem is completely legitimate.

Example: Emotional after the Rams lose the Superbowl in the last minute of play, Tim punches a hole in the drywall of his living room. It is thus that he discovers black mold within the wall. The next day, Tim calls out of work so that he can hire a team of mold removal experts to make his house inhabitable again.

7. Can I call off from work because I’m depressed or mental health?

Sometimes, life just becomes too much. As most people know from the pandemic, stress and overwork can wear you down. There is nothing wrong with calling out of work to take a mental health day, featuring rest and recuperation.

Example: Sandy has had a tough few weeks. Her dog died, her father got sick, her son got suspended from school, and her husband is talking about divorce. She is exhausted and can’t contemplate going to work on Monday. Overwhelmed, Sandy calls out of work for a few days in order to rest and recover mentally. She books a room at the Four Seasons and reads Daphne du Maurier while getting a shiatsu massage.

8. How do you call off for bad weather?

Sometimes bad weather can prevent an employee from getting to work. For instance, a winter storm might dump two feet of snow overnight, and the roads become impassable. In this case, it is reasonable for an employee to call out of work due to the danger or impossibility of commuting.

Example: Greg lives near Big Bear. One winter morning, he wakes up to a foot and a half of snow and icy sidewalks. Greg calls out of work in order to clear the ice and to avoid dangerous mountain roads. 

9. Is it okay to call out of work for an interview?

When an employee is interviewing for another job, it might be necessary to call out of work in order to attend an interview. Even if the interview will only last an hour, it would be awkward to show up to work dressed for an interview and face questions from employees or a manager.

Example: Jen works at Ralphs. However, she has just scheduled an interview with Vons. As Jen does not want her supervisor at Ralphs to find out about her searching for another job, she calls out of work on the day of her interview.

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