Sick leave is a job benefit not a privilege

Opinion from Federal Times

Sick leave is a job benefit, not a privilege

While managers may have the legal right to use sick leave restriction letters [“How to fight sick leave abuse,” Ask the Lawyer column, April 19 issue], I could find no guidelines during my career on what constitutes sick leave abuse. There was no usable definition of what constitutes incapacity.

Is a headache sufficient reason to take sick leave? What about depression and other gray areas? Simply having a chronic condition may be reason for days off.

Having to submit to interrogation by a manager who may already be hostile toward an employee for absences is demeaning and rife with potential for abuse by the manager.

Not all conditions require a visit to the doctor, so requiring this documentation is not an effective way to respond to sick leave abuse.

Managers are not doctors and are not qualified to make decisions about what constitutes incapacity, especially in the absence of agency guidelines.

Managers are not employment lawyers and are not qualified to make judgments about what constitutes abuse.

Read More

16 Responses to "Sick leave is a job benefit not a privilege"

  1. Gary   June 2, 2010 at 3:00 am

    As a former letter carrier who used 2000 hours of sick leave during my postal career and am proud of it, true sick leave is a benefit that you should only use if you are in the hospital on life support according to management. Any other use is considered abuse and will be questioned. That is just a form of intimidation so you`ll be afraid to call in sick. If you choose to allow it to affect you and come to work sick, management has accomplished their goal and you are a chump! Sick leave should not be abused however when you need to use it do it because it is a benefit!

  2. Frustrated   June 26, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I am a letter carrier and have been with USPS for 10 yrs. I recently transferred to another station and am not happy. The supervisors are no help and all of the carriers have issues with the supervisors from lack of communication to big headed control of power. I have NEVER received a Letter of Warning until last week. I called in 3 months ago for 8 hrs of unscheduled sick leave, I used 8 hrs of Emergency Annual leave for a funeral, which I explained & received approval from the supervisors and Postmaster, and last week I used 8 hrs of unscheduled sick leave (which I turned in a Dr excuse for because of the hassle I received from supervisors). I was scorned by my supervisor and given a Letter of Warning for UNACCEPTABLE ATTENDANCE PERFORMANCE- FAILURE TO MAINTAIN ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS OF YOUR POSITION. I know of other carriers that abuse sick leave and call in at least once a week and do so without hassles from the supervisors. Please provide me with your input or guidance on what I should do and any reference to written documentation so I can fight back with official policy & procedures. I am filling a grievance but if you have any other info that may be helpful I would appreciate it!

  3. Randy Foreback   July 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm


    Seek employment elsewhere. You’re probably qualified to deliver pizza or newspapers.

  4. Gary   July 2, 2010 at 10:21 am


    I am the “Gary” from the response above yours.You are absolutely correct in the fact that management hassles some people and others are left alone. Most of my sick calls would come out of left field catching management completely off guard. If I was ever questioned about a sick call which only happened once in 22 years I would call my doctor and have him give me a note covering me for 3 to 5 days. It sounds to me they are just trying to intimate you because you are new at that office. If you allow it to happen and don`t call in sick when you are, management has accomplished their goal. I had a friend at my former branch who has more than 30 years in and has only called in sick 3 times in his entire career. I can`t tell you the number of times he came to work sick but it was alot. Bottom line, if you are sick just call in and screw management. By the way documentation isn`t necessary until after 3 days. If they want a doctor`s note for one day go to your union rep and tell him about it. Good luck!

  5. Mike   July 6, 2010 at 8:32 am

    The Fact, is that most carriers do abuse their sick leave. Then down the road when they need it. It’s gone. The I have over 1000 hours of sick leave and i’m proud of it! I laugh at these chumps that call in week after week. Management has nothing to do with it. When we go to five day delivery, you can bet that sick leave will be reduced along with A.L. in the upcoming contract. So Go ahead call in sick, Your only screwing your fellow carriers. And say Hello to the O.I.G for me. Dumb Asses.

  6. Shamar Hill   July 11, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    With respect, consider postal employees affected by aggressive policies who are innocent of sick leave abuse. And most carriers DO NOT abuse their sick leave. What about the national contract? What about the law?

    In any other job, it would be called personal leave (or something comparable) and is not separate from annual leave. Sick leave is time worked benefit. You only accrue leave as you work for it. It is yours to use as needed or desired. That is a LEGAL RIGHT not to be mishandled, misinterpreted and evaluated by managers and supervisors. Just like cops can’t make up and evaluate the law as they see fit.

    Management has everything to do with it, sick leave is distributed as if it comes from their own personal pockets. There are increasingly changing stipulations on what constitutes incapacitation, documentation and sick leave abuse. This article was clear in pointing that out, however the abuse of civil action and managerial power is what is NOT called into question. Management has now opted to simply refuse sick leave pay for any and all employees who call off sick, FMLA or not. Under some new obscure “policy” the pay has to be corrected after the postal manager deems documentation, medical or otherwise, sufficient to his or her likes. In fact, I know a manager who instructed his supervisor not to pay an employee sick leave, no matter what medical documentation they had.

    Tell me how you justify that… legally.

  7. Roxanne   July 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I called off sick and had a doctors note for every day of the 2 weeks. They wouldn’t pay me for my sick leave and i had 32 days of sick leave. I don’t know where is states in any contract that the supervisor can refuse to pay you your sick leave when u meet their standards. Anyone have any advice?

  8. Bill   July 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Roxanne: Lawyer. In my office we have by passed the union and climbing the chain of command. It is wasted time and breath. We now go to our congressman. The PO doesn’t like it, but then, I care about that why? I spent over 400 hours last year for a surgery. Since that was only one event, I didn’t have any problems. But people that have small kids who get sick at day care, have to be off more regularly. They get harrassed. Upper management is arrogant. They basically can do what the want, without ANY reprecussions.

  9. Nat   March 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I find it funny that “Mike” , who claims that all carriers abuse sick leave, refers to his fellow carriers as dumb-asses but can’t even use the word “your” correctly. Classy guy.

  10. Terri   January 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Mike you are SO stupid. Although some people as in every walk in life abuse things and one is sick leave. It is amazing to me how many people are in pain and are working and how many people go to work sick with colds and fevers because they are intimidated by management. They go into work spreading their germs and get everyone else sick. We have people with bad knees, carpul tunnel, herniated disc and other issues to show up to work day by day. Those are the people when they retire who will not be able to enjoy their retirement. I have been told by claims examiner that the letter carrier job is very physical and he understood how there are so many people who have been hurt by the job. He found it no surprise at all. Mike must be a supervisor.

  11. F   May 28, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Some people don’t get sick very often, and when they do it doesn’t affect them much. Since they haven’t experienced the feeling it probably makes it easier to look down on others. Then there are those that use it as a way to make themselves feel superior to others, “I’m hardcore, I don’t call in sick”, and they end up getting others sick. Those are the same individuals that will turn into bitter, miserable assholes in their old age.

    I do agree that abusing the sick time is wrong, but it’s there for a reason. If an employee is using the sick time due to illness and they aren’t exceeding the time given, I don’t see the issue.

    Having a “benefit” such as sick leave on the books, then denying it’s use is basically lying. So who is the moral douche bag in the end? The employee using the sick leave, or the lying snake claiming offerings of a sick leave “benefit” with the unspoken rule that you are not actually allowed to use it? If you think people should never call in sick, then make that clear from the get go. Don’t buff your benefit package with anything you aren’t willing to stand behind. Ridiculous.

  12. robert   June 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    If any one could ttell me how to get a reassignment with no sick leave and bad attendence because of a fmla related issue for a year. I would greatly be me 551 556 4)11

  13. Challa   November 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Robert I would call you but the number is incomplete. If you still have issue with reassignment here’s my advice as one who used to deal as assistant with workplace accommodations for medical reasons. Your physician needs to write an accommodation letter to your supervisor cc you and whoever else is involved ie union rep and supervisors super. It will detail your diagnoses as well what is necessary re workplace accommodation including tasks duration environment (ie for ADHD a quiet workspace without auditory or visual interruptions) as varied as the needs of the patients letters are written in behalf of by the treating physician. You simply ask your doctor to write a report and tell him clearly what you are looking for so he can detail the report to assist you obtaining the accommodation ie transfer to a different department or role.

    I hope you approach your doctor in this. I have found the workplace will not argue the doctor when such an accomodation report is rendered. It puts them on notice that there is a strong advocate for the patient outside the workplace and the physician has the Final Say in every case we tackled. Judges go with the treating physicians report as the guide on evaluating workplace compliance. Trust me you want that accommodation report in your employee file as well your patient chart!

  14. Mimi   January 4, 2015 at 4:12 am

    I am a career carrier. I am learning quickly that having a job is considered a privilege and it doesn’t seem to matter if you work hard and make every effort to do the right thing or not anymore. No matter where you are there will be “favorites” and good intentions don’t count for anything. Sick leave abuse….the attendance policy is purposely vague. Everyone is different. I have watched several carriers here literally work themselves to death. I will never judge anyone for using sick leave I wish that some good carriers and great people in general had. I really hate to see “holier than thou”people judge others based off of what they do it pointless and petty. Sick leave is supposed to be used for illness and with the conditions under which we work, it should be expected at least on occasion. I was hired as a disabled vet and am very appreciative of having a job but appointment s and some use of sick leave should be expected. When you come to work I’ll, you are not going to be as efficient and even then they write you up, it’s a double edged sword. I pray that everyone remains in good health and that the post office develops a more clear attendance policy in the near future so that we at least know what we have to battle with.

  15. Mimi   January 4, 2015 at 4:15 am

    Wow autocorrect…. Should be when you come to work ill

  16. John   October 19, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I called in on sick leave and turned it a doctor’s note as backup. I know I said “sick leave” when I called in, however it printed out as annual leave and my supervisor will not fix it and told me a did it wrong and to bad. I believe the supervisior changed it in the system so that I would not have the available annual leave I needed for an up coming trip. Can they change that?