Question My husband has asked to take this Friday off for a doctors appointment and wants to used his vacation time for it. He has been in the hospital twice for his gallbladder and needs to be seen. His work has refused him the time off but gives it to others for there appointments. Can they legally refuse him time for medical reasons? And can they ask you why you are calling in sick? I thought medical info. is protected?
Answer Bert - Time off is at the discretion of the employer, unless it is taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as intermittent leave. What the employer does or not for others usually is not relevant. Yes, they can refuse him time off even for medical reasons. Yes, they can ask for a reason for being out - otherwise how would they know whether time off qualified as sick time? Medical information is confidential to the extent that diseases, medications, etc. are to be kept in a locked office or file cabinet and not shared with non-HR or non-supervisory personnel, but asking if you have the flu or a cold or something similar is not confidential. They can even ask for a letter from a doctor to show that sick time actually was used for an illness. Any information that could lead to discriminatory behavior, e.g., mental illness, sexually transmitted disease, etc., need not be disclosed.