General Question

wildpotato's avatar

Can my boss demand a medical excuse to give me days off that she already approved?

Asked by wildpotato (14906points) June 25th, 2010

I requested this coming Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off work three weeks ago. The time off was approved both verbally and in written form. Now my boss is saying she needs me in on Monday and Tuesday for important meetings. When I responded that I was sorry, but had already made plans, she asked me if my plans were related to a medical condition. I was taken aback by this question, because it seems like a major intrusion into what has now been categorized as my own time, and into a particularly private part of my time at that. Is it really acceptable for her to ask this of me? I mean not just in a legal sense – I’m pretty sure I’d have no leg to stand on in that arena – but also in the sense of professional appropriateness. I’ve just never been in a situation like this before, and don’t quite know how to take it. What do you guys think the best response to this would be?

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25 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

The best response is to remind her that it was previously approved, and the plans are irrevocable.

James_Mal's avatar

Well, I doubt that this is appropriate at all, especially seeing as your boss has let you know both (verbal/written) ways that you’d get that time off. I don’t know what a good response would be however. The first thing that would come to mind is to bring up the agreement that you two have made, if you haven’t done so already. Your boss should see the written consent, and with that should not be able to keep you from doing what you have already planned. Regardless of your medical condition. Although, you could always fib and say you broke your finger or something!

marinelife's avatar

Tell her that you were going out of the area and you have already made your travel plans.

wildpotato's avatar

@dpworkin So you don’t think it necessary to say yes or no to her question, but that I should respond in a way that implies her question is irrelevant?

tinyfaery's avatar

Not legally, no. Unless there is some sort of agreement you signed stating that your days off could be revoked for whatever reason.

If you buckle now they will expect you to always give in. Employers are taking advantage of workers because of the bad economy. Don’t let them blackmail you.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think it depends on just how “important” those meetings really are. In some cases I think it might trump your personal plans, but she should be prepared to reimburse you for any expenses you’ve incurred as a result of her reneging on the agreement. If these are just stupid everyday type meetings then I think you should press her hard, and stand up for yourself. It also depends on the type of work you do, and how well you’re paid.

missingbite's avatar

@wildpotato Come up with some (fake) VERY personal medical condition and go into detail of what it involves and watch her squirm.

Cruiser's avatar

What is listed in your employee handbook and or other verbal previous understood directives over time off will rule the outcome here. The boss is the boss and has no legal obligation to give you time off and I would expect any handbook or contract has some clause to that effect. Unless you were such superstar and you specifically negotiated a time off no matter what clause! You want your job and any future opportunity to take time off I would abide by the bosses demands as sucky as it is. There are thousands of people waiting for opportunities to earn a paycheck like yours.

Here we generally do what ever we can to allow for that person to get their days off but there are “rules” and some restrictions over days off even ones granted well in advance in that is we are busy you are expected to show up to work especially if asked regardless of plans in place. Salaried employees are especially “expected” to fall on the sword to keep production running and orders flowing. No one is allowed to have time off in the summer due to it being our busy time…medical issues are the exception and employees are further expected to not get sick, break bones or die this time of year either! Thankfully we have never had to ask anyone to abandon a planned family vacation.

janbb's avatar

Yes, as other have said I wouldn’t even respond to the medical issue request and just state that the time has been approved and that you have made plans to travel out of the area. “Sorry I will not be available.” (It may be hard to stand you grould if they are really pissy about it though.)

bellusfemina's avatar

Tell her you have pink eye, and it’s highly contagious!

tinyfaery's avatar

Do you have kids? They are always the perfect excuse and no one will question you.

Brian1946's avatar

I agree with most of the preceding answers.

One item of leverage that management might have is the reason for the approval.

If it was for a medical reason, then they would have leverage.

Apparently it wasn’t though, so it would depend on either your individual employment or union contract.

If you have union representation, then consult your steward.

If not, then take a look at your individual contract.

Lightlyseared's avatar

You’re having a colonoscopy on Tuesday (long family history of bowel cancer, really needs to be checked out). You need the Monday off as you’ll be taking a strong laxitive to clear the bowel out and will be running to the toilet every 10 minutes. You need the Wednesday off to recover and to finish farting out all the air they will no doubt pump into you during the procedure.

anartist's avatar

If the meetings are really important, and you have a high level of responsibility, I would try to accommodate if possible. If the plans involve you being away that is obviously impossible. If you have an engagement for one day but not the other, I would offer to come for the meetings that day. If the meetings are just the usual or your role isn’t critical decision making—I would just say plans are irrevocable.

I think you should not feel the need to make up medical excuses, since the leave already was approved.

ETpro's avatar

If you like your job, the best rule of thumb to use is, “The boss might not always be right, but s/he’s always the boss.” Even if they can’t legally fire you for a given piece of insubordination, bosses will often find a legal means to shed those who are difficult to manage. Better to focus on winning the whole war, not just one battle.

Spider's avatar

This is a tough one, because if you don’t stand for it (I would be tempted not to), then in the future, you may not get vacation granted in a timely manner. Perhaps a compromise is in order? I know it might be too late for this, but if you can’t arrange to be present for the meeting, maybe you could offer to provide comments on the topics that will be discussed. Or maybe you can arrange to be available via phone during the meeting (or a portion of the meeting).

lilikoi's avatar

I’ve worked for people like that before – but not for long. Depending on the situation you’re in, you may want to suck it up and give in, although I would probably not budge and make her stick to her word even if I’d be homeless without the job.

I don’t see why your being out of the office is any of her business or is even relevant. Would she retract her request if this were a dire medical situation? It would definitely be fun to mess with her.

Another way of working with her ridiculous expectations would be to offer to be at the meetings via phone. You should be able to call in and be put on speakerphone. That seems more than fair.

It’s one thing to ask and beg that you show up on your days off, quite another to demand and expect it. No matter what you do, I would take this as a big red flag and immediately start looking for better opportunities elsewhere. Some people may be able to weather things like this, but if you’re a stickler for fairness, this work environ is not for you.

MissA's avatar

I wouldn’t give a phony excuse…I’d just ask her if she plans on reimbursing you for the cancelations. That should do it.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @dpworkin

Is there any chance these meetings are so important that you think your boss has a really good reason for you to cancel your plans? But, really, if you can miss for a medical condition, then that means you can miss the meeting or they can reschedule, so logically the reason you need the days off is irrelevant.

plethora's avatar

First, I am an employer and only employ two women who would fall on the sword if I asked them. But I would never ask and would go out of my way to avoid imposing on them once I have granted permission to be off. It really doesn’t matter what the reason is, if I gave permission, then I will stick by my word.

I think your employer should do the same. Having said that, I realize that most employers will not honor their word unless forced to do so. Question is, you have the right, but what will it cost you to force the issue?

Here is how I would handle it. Obviously, your employer is not trustworthy, so permission to be off is worthless. I would request a meeting in her office to discuss it. Right out of the box, I would tell her, willingly and enthusiastically, that you are willing to move Heaven and Earth to fulfull the company’s goals, so of course you will be there for the meetings.

To her….“With your permission, may I ask one question? (assuming she says yes). Since I requested time off 6 weeks (or whateever) in advance and have made plans for which I have had to pay in advance, is the company going to reimburse me for the cancellations and may I have permission now to take the time in the future and how much notice do you need for me to depend on the permission when granted?”

That leaves you looking very very willing and helpful, but lets her know you know you cannot depend on her word. She may change her mind. Maybe not. But I don’t think I would fight unless I have another job waiting. She thinks you are the easiest person to push on.

Just my approach. Would be interested to know if others agree with it…or am I out of my gourd?

KhiaKarma's avatar

This is really just a restatement of some of the above….there may be something in your policy and procedure manual, so check that out first. If you want to keep your job, I would try to negotiate something, you know best what that might be (ex: cover hard to cover shifts)....If you want to keep your plans without the possibility of negotiation- check out craigslist and other job posting sites just to be prepared. Things come up and it sucks, but some flexiblity may be beneficial to you.

She’s probably asking if it’s related to a medical purposes to see if she has any leverage with asking you to cancel plans. Probably can’t make you work if it’s medical leave. I however, do not think it is wise to make up an excuse as documentation will probably be required. although @Lightlyseared ‘s excuse is hilarious!!!

JLeslie's avatar

Regarding what @plethora said, I worked for a company that once did that. Paid for the amount it cost to change reservations so an employee could be present for an important corporate visit. But, I did not see on the thread that this is in question? Did the OP say they already have paid for plans to travel? I thought someone else suggested that as an excuse. maybe I read it incorrectly.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

You can stand your ground but you may pay a price later. At least it is an informed choice for you.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Did you request accrued vacation time off, or are you asking for unpaid time off? If it is unpaid time off, then your boss can request that you come for the meetings. If you have accrued vacation time, and are planning on using that, then HR would intervene.

If I were you, I would tell her that you are flattered that you are that indispensable to the department, and will remind her of that at your next performance review. Suggest that would be happy to dial in to the meetings while you are off if your presence is that critical as you have made plans that cannot be cancelled. Or if she would tell you what specifically about your presence is critical, you would be happy to address the talking points in an e-mail.

plethora's avatar

@PandoraBoxx Very good. I like your approach better.

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