Worker Opposes Policy Requiring Sick Employees To Find Coverage Or Show Up To Work

It seems the pandemic taught this employer nothing.

sick woman at work RollingCamera - Shutterstock

If we learned nothing else during the coronavirus pandemic, it's that sick employees need to stay home and out of the office. That valuable lesson was often ignored prior to pandemic guidelines by both employers and employees. In the wake of lockdowns, most workplaces changed their policies, drastically, for all the right reasons.

But that insight seems to have been lost on at least one employer.


An employee sought advice on how to approach their employer's strict sick policy.

In a post uploaded to the r/jobs subreddit, the employee explained that their job reportedly demanded that sick employees without shift coverage must show up for work regardless of the possibility of spreading their illness to their coworkers. If that alone is not shocking enough, the worker reported that they happen to work in a medical facility.

The only exception, according to the post, was if the ailing employee was “febrile,” meaning feverish with related symptoms like fatigue, lethargy, or seizures. As the CDC notes, however, not all contagious illnesses, like the flu, present with a fever. 


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Frustrated and at a standstill in the conversation and no longer feeling it would be productive, the employee texted his boss, saying, "I understand you have policies for a reason and have to uphold them. That being said I do not see there being any positive outcome to this conversation, so I am removing myself." 

Without going into detail, they asserted that their boss was “toxic” and that further communication could be detrimental to their mental health — but the boss wasn’t done with the conversation and decided to up the ante.

The employee added that with what they perceived as veiled empathy, management responded that a cease in discussions would be considered a resignation from their position. The worker denied resigning but rejected any further discussion on the matter.


RELATED: Woman Says Boss Showed Up At Her Home To 'Prove' That She Wasn't Sick — Now She Wants To Take Legal Action

whatsapp message between sick employee and managementPhoto: Reddit

Turning to Reddit, they wanted to know what protections they have against wrongful termination under the guise of resignation.

Can an employer who doesn’t like your communication or lack thereof say you resigned?

The short answer, in most cases, is no. The employee simply inquired about a policy that concerned them. There is no obligation to continue to engage the manager, especially while off work. If the worker refuses to follow the policy, they could be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment.


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There are times when an organization accuses an employee of resigning to get rid of them and avoid paying unemployment, but in this case, it would be a losing cause since it’s clear that no resignation was tendered.

But it's important to keep in mind that the poster only shared part of the conversation. We don't know if there is a history of performance issues or insubordination, or what the context was outside of what was shared. Perhaps something was said previously that led the manager to believe the employee was resigning. To truly get the full picture, the conversation would need to be reviewed from start to finish. 

With all of that said, under Texas law, it is possible that the worker could resign and call it “constructive termination,” meaning that the employer made the work environment so untenable that he or she had no choice but to quit their job. Exposing them to illness and threatening their job because they are uncomfortable with a conversation or voiced concerns about a policy (retaliation) could be valid grounds.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.