So I just had a break and ate pizza at the Italian restaurant next door.
Since I like spicy food I ordered a spicy pizza. I even spiced it up.
Back from break I was feeling sick for about 30 seconds. So I was wondering: "If I would have really felt sick due to that pizza and signed off because I was feeling sick, would that be illegal or a crime?"

I know (or at least I think I know) that making oneself ill is illegal, because it's cheating the employer, but on the other hand it's ones right to choose what one wants to eat.

My question is now could I eat that pizza again?

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    "I was feeling sick for about 30 seconds" - do you really mean 30 seconds, or 30 minutes? 30 seconds is nothing, you probably just had some reflux. – David K Mar 13 '19 at 15:20
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    This may seem like an odd question, but it's pretty much analogous to asking if it's okay to take sick leave for being hungover. – David K Mar 13 '19 at 16:00
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    What causes you to think that making yourself ill is illegal? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 13 '19 at 16:09
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    Welcome to this site! I would like a clarification: do you mean "getting sick on purpose by eating something" or "getting sick accidentally by eating something" – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 13 '19 at 16:21
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    Unless you put rat poison on your pizza on purpose I don't see how you could've guessed that it would make you sick. Heck, how could you even know that it was that pizza that made you sick and not something else. – undefined Mar 14 '19 at 8:53

This is the first time that I've heard the claim that it is illegal to make yourself sick, and I've worked in the field of employee law in Germany for several years. I sincerely doubt that claim.

The relevant law is the EntgFG (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz), §3 - https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/entgfg/__3.html where it says:

(1) Wird ein Arbeitnehmer durch Arbeitsunfähigkeit infolge Krankheit an seiner Arbeitsleistung verhindert, ohne daß ihn ein Verschulden trifft,

The interesting part for your question is "ohne dass ihn ein Verschulden trifft" (without him being guilty). The courts clearly say here that this excludes only "grobe Fahrlässigkeit", i.e. when you are almost intentionally hurting yourself, e.g.:

Here is a text explaining a couple reasons that lead or don't lead to this: https://www.ddniedersachsen.de/assets/messages/Anl._6_Verweigerung_der_Entgeltfortzahlung.pdf

In general, especially risky sports and getting yourself into a fight for no good reason (especially starting it) count for this.

That still doesn't make it illegal! It just means that your employer can refuse to continue paying your salary for the duration of your self-inflicted illness.

Does spicing up your food too much count as "grober Verstoss den ein verständiger Mensch nicht begehen würde" ? Well, if you completely emptied the pepper box on the pizza, probably yes. If you just added a bit too much spice - who hasn't done that? Is that in the same category as a sport that is so risky that even trained people and professionals are at a serious risk of injury? I don't think it is, but IANAL.

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    Well I really emptied the whole pepper box ... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Jannis Mar 14 '19 at 7:30
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    @idmean I've worked on the HR side. I received formal legal training and I've been (in my professional role) in courts many times, but I don't have a degree in jurisprudence. – Tom Mar 14 '19 at 9:27
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    I'd say it's along the same lines as accidental food poisoning because you ate something like a dairy product that was over the date, looked fine, but turned out not to be. It happens. – simbabque Mar 14 '19 at 10:45
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    I remember seeing previous answers (to other questions) that mentioned in Germany you cannot ask about an employee's sickness. If this is applicable, it would be really great to add that also - as it sounded from those posts, like the employer can't realistically find out how you got sick in the first place. (If not, or it doesn't sound right - just reply and I'll delete this comment) – user81330 Mar 14 '19 at 13:54
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    The employer absolutely can ask. However, the employee does not have to answer or is legally allowed to lie (it's not in the law, but court decisions exist), except if the information is vital to the employer, e.g. it's a contagious disease or it affects the way the employee can work. From the doctor the employer will get a "Krankschreibung" - a paper saying that the employee is unable to work and for how long, but not what the illness or cause is. – Tom Mar 14 '19 at 16:51

Generally speaking, if you go to a doctor and get a sick note (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) then you are unfit for work. Matter of fact the name in German already says you are unfit to work. It does not pass any judgement as to why.

It's never illegal to go to a doctor and get a sick note.

In rare cases, if it can be proven that you did it on purpose or with gross negligence, the people who paid for your sick leave (in this case probably your Krankenversicherung, in case of an accident the gesetzliche Unfallversicherung) can refuse to pay or demand their already paid money back. Please note that those are serious cases. Like hitting a sign-post head-on with your car while speeding under the influence of alcohol on your way to work. That can be ruled as self-inflicted or at least gross negligence and the insurance can refuse to pay. It's still not illegal to take sick leave because the truth is that the person is not fit for work after colliding with the sign post (the DUI is another matter). But it's basically unpaid and that's costly.

Sick leave is also a protected state, you cannot be fired for being sick, not even in the above case of the DUI (although you might be fired for having a DUI on record if your job is being a driver at the company). A company might find a few phony other reasons to fire people that they think had too much sick leave though or if the person is a contract worker just not renew the contract when it runs out.

So yes, you can eat that pizza again. It's not even proven that that pizza made you sick. Now from the perspective of your boss, after the third or fourth time you have to go home sick after eating there, I would seriously question your personal judgement. But making bad decisions is not illegal.

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    Additional note: Your employer can't ask why you're sick and you're not required to tell. Also for all you know it may have been a coincidence. – xyious Mar 13 '19 at 18:26
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    Additional note from experience: when you go to the doctor in Germany and get a sick note, you get 3 copies. 1 for you with everything on it, 1 for the insurance company with everything on it and 1 for your employer with nothing but the dates on it. PS: "But making bad decisions is not illegal." Dammit. If it was we could imprison most politicians. – Skrrp Mar 13 '19 at 18:37
  • @Skrrp: ah, same in France. The pages are actually self-copying, but they are of different length (so the employer one does not have all the details because it is shorter) – WoJ Mar 13 '19 at 22:46

No, it is not illegal to become sick, regardless of the cause. Sick time may or may not be paid by your employer, depending on their policies.

It may not be the wisest thing to do at lunch, knowing you have work still to do afterward.

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    There is no "depending on their policies" in Germany. Sick leave is always paid by the employer in full, who in turn is reimbursed by the persons mandatory health insurance. – nvoigt Mar 13 '19 at 16:36
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    Yes, but policies might restrict what 'sick leave' is. Some employers require a doctor's note, most only do for extended (over 1 or 2 days) leave. However, I don't see a doctor that wouldn't give you a note for an afternoon for virtually any reason – xyious Mar 13 '19 at 18:23
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    @Ghanima I'm not sure why you think my comment disagrees with my answer. I can see no discrepancy. The employer pays the sick leave, the health insurance pays the employer and the health insurance, as the entity who paid the bill in the end, might turn to the employee to get their money back if it was gross negligence. That's what my comment says, that's what my answer says. – nvoigt Mar 13 '19 at 19:27
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    @Ghanima The "always" in my comment here is meant to say there are no "policies" the employer could dictate. The employer has no say in this. – nvoigt Mar 13 '19 at 19:46
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    "Sick time may or may not be paid by your employer, depending on their policies.". No. The employer has no say in it. In rare cases, e.g. when the harm is self-inflicted, payment can be refused by the insurance provider, but this doesn't depend on policy - it depends on the law, and will in doubt be decided in court. The employer can't even decide, because they lack the necessary information. If you get an AU, no cause is given, only start and end date. For the employer to challenge this, they would have to call the AU fraudulent and take action against the doctor... – Polygnome Mar 14 '19 at 0:43

This is not about German law, but I would GUESS probably not, otherwise where would we draw the line?

Would it be illegal to not eat healthy? Would it be illegal to care for a sick wife? Would it be illegal to consume alcohol on the weekend. These are just a few factors that can contribute to becoming sick.

Having said that, if you acted in a reckless manner that caused you to miss work, and that caused some damage to the business, that would probably be frowned upon, though not illegal.

If you endanger your own health and safety while at work, that is a different story.

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    Is eating spiced pizza considered as reckless ? – Jannis Mar 13 '19 at 15:31
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    If you got back in the office and then boasted about having ghost chili on your pizza, and then got violently ill and had to leave, your boss will be disappointed, and your coworkers will think you're an idiot. – Gregory Currie Mar 13 '19 at 15:33
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    Like @GregroyCurrie said. Stupid an illegal are too different things. For example if you're lactose intolerant then eating a cheese cake for lunch is stupid. That does not mean it's illegal. – Working Title Mar 13 '19 at 15:47
  • @Jannis If you knew it would cause illness, then yes, it can be considered reckless. – Dan Mar 13 '19 at 16:36
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    Yes.... doing it three times in a row, getting sick and leaving every time might lead to problems. – xyious Mar 13 '19 at 18:24

In the USA, I imagine Germany too, only way it would be "illegal" is if you were contractually obligated to not be reckless or engage in reckless activities. I imagine this is for top officials such as CEOs or maybe a sports star, not common workers. Even with that clause, they typically mean something like engaging in parachuting or something with a known danger, not eating spicy food.

With that said, you may be asked to bring in a doctor's note. That wouldn't be unfair for your employer to request such thing. In the future, avoid food you know will cause illness. Not so much for work reasons but for health reasons.

I eat pizzas on a regular basis but last time I went with co-workers, we ate at this pizza shop and the spinach on mine must have been rotten or something because I got really sick afterwards. I went home and came back to work the next day. No questions or issues since that's what sick leave is for. I do not go to that pizza place any longer, though, but next time I would be more careful about what toppings I choose at the establishment.

  • yeah, I've had contracts that explicitly stated certain sports that I wasn't supposed to engage in (free climbing, for example). It's rare but it happens. – jwenting Mar 14 '19 at 5:00
  • @jwenting: Interesting, never heard of this, except for sports professionals. And free climbing is not particularly dangerous - or did you mean free solo climbing (as in, free climbing without rope protection)? – sleske Mar 14 '19 at 8:24

Did you intentionally make yourself sick for the express purpose of using sick leave? If not, then no fault exists.

  • I could imagine that failing to avoid something you knew (from past experience) would make you sick would be a problem, even if the reason for eating it was that it tastes good. (e.g. some food that you love, but that gives you migraines.) That's getting into territory that's could be considered somewhat similar to drinking / drugs, which are well-known ways to make yourself unable to work and typically are punishable by employers. – Peter Cordes Mar 13 '19 at 22:44
  • That seems like a gray area. If I eat something that I know may make me too sick to work then that's foolish and possibly negligent. Is it criminally negligent? Probably not. I think intent has a lot of bearing here. If my express intent is to make myself too sick to work than that's probably a problem. – joeqwerty Mar 13 '19 at 22:50
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    So maybe something they could fire you over, like other employee behaviour problems? But might not be considered a breach of contract if you'd agreed to work for at least x months as part of some offer / deal? And not something they could sue you over. I don't think "criminal" is really the right word even for getting drunk before (not) coming to work; it's not breaking criminal law (unless you're a bus driver or otherwise could injure people by being negligent in your job...) – Peter Cordes Mar 13 '19 at 23:06
  • You cannot be fired for making yourself sick. The employer can refuse to pay sick leave, but that's it. Firing due to health reasons is only possible for conditions that are not getting better in Germany (very much simplified, but in essence). – Tom Mar 14 '19 at 7:38

Clarification: I live in the UK, but our laws on sick leave area based on EU regulations, which I imagine Germany to be as well.

Getting sick from a pizza you've bought in good faith is bad luck, but hardly illegal.

If you kept eating there in order to persistently get sick, your boss might ask questions about your reasoning though. I've heard the rants of managers who got annoyed with people getting food poisoning from the same fried chicken shop for example. That particular workplace was shift work and only paid sick leave if you had a doctor's note though.

It's my experience that there's statutory sick pay, which is long term and issued by the government rather than the company, and there's company sick pay, which has a limited number of days based on length of service. Those days are full pay. If your employer suspects you're trying to milk those days then they will likely ask for evidence of the sickness either via a doctor's note or an assessment by a doctor of their choice. If that happens and you have been making yourself ill or injuring yourself on purpose, then you're busted.

  • Good poisoning is less annoying than bad poisoning. – Umberto P. Mar 13 '19 at 19:29
  • Lol, that was a dyac moment – Sam Lee Mar 13 '19 at 20:06
  • Another way this could work is some food that you love the taste of, but that gives you migraines. Then you'll know you're going to get sick, not just that you're taking a risk. Like with drinking / drugs (other well-known ways to make yourself unable to work), that might be punishable by employers. – Peter Cordes Mar 13 '19 at 22:46
  • Sorry, when I wrote that, I was referring to paid sick leave. If there's reasonable proof that it was caused on purpose by the employee they will give unpaid leave. – Sam Lee Mar 14 '19 at 6:29

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