I need to go to the doctor sometime in the next two weeks for a somewhat urgent matter. The only specialist in my area is only available between 10-4 on weekdays, and I work 9-5 for a manager who loves to say no to everyone just to feel like he's in control. One of my coworkers was recently let go for getting in an accident and going to the ER during work hours without permission. I'm currently looking for a new job but it's impossible to get any time off to interview so I'm limited to companies that can schedule phone interviews outside the 9-5 window.

I've told my boss that I need to go to the doctor, and he said it has to be outside work hours. If I miss an hour of work he'll fire me. The HR representative I then spoke with said since it's at-will that is a legitimate reason to fire someone, and he's just unreasonable and aggressive with everyone so they don't want to challenge him.

I need health insurance to cover these expenses so quitting isn't a good option.

Going to a different doctor isn't possible, and my doctor can't change his hours. Please don't suggest that.

The thing I'm asking for is how to convince my manager to let me take time off. How can I do that?

I am located in New York state (not NYC).

  • 4
    My employer does offer PTO but no one's ever actually been paid after taking Paid Time Off. It just sits in the time card website waiting to be approved.
    – user105256
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 14:25
  • 28
    This info may be helpful to you, but it's probably worth talking to a lawyer too: Can an Employer Fire Someone for Being Sick?
    – David K
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 14:32
  • 9
    what is your employer's policy on vacation days? Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:28
  • 11
    You may also want to search law.stackexchange.com Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 19:29
  • 6
    What kind of company is this? What sort of work do you do?
    – Steve-o169
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 18:44

9 Answers 9


If you have to go, then notify him and go.
Explain that it is urgent, and is dangerous to your health if you do not go.
If possible, give him enough notice so there is coverage for your job (if your job requires it).

Make sure you have some sort of documentation that you have done this.

If you don't notify him, you can probably be fired for that.
(Leaving without notifying him = unexcused absence.)

If he fires you, he fires you and you get a lawyer. Your health isn't worth the job or the money.
Money and jobs can be fixed... not certain what the implications are of you not getting medical attention in the next two weeks... but you make it sound dire.

ismael miguel summed this up below as:

"You can have another job, but you can't have another health."

You don't have to worry about the health insurance.
COBRA (a Federal law) requires your insurer to offer the same coverage to you with no markup(1) for a period of time and you get sixty (90?) days to say you want it and pay the premium (assuming you want to continue it).

I am not a lawyer (IANAL) but it sounds like your HR person is going to get the company sued soon, may as well be you that does it. Or s/he may know, and be bluffing to cover for the (idiot) manager.

NOTE: Don't be careless about this
If you do something like disappear, they may be able to fire you for that.
You can turn around and sue them based on ADA, but that is harder and more expensive to prove (remember IANAL).

1 = You'll have to pay your portion + whatever your employer is paying.
Note that sometimes the employer portion (or subsidy) is a larger amount than you would expect, and you'll be responsible for both parts going forward.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 17:49

I don't know what your medical condition is - nor do I want to know.

Submit the request in writing. Use email. Get the response in writing/email. Document. Document. Document.

Most employers give PTO (paid time off). You don't have to tell them why you're taking a day or half-day. It is none of their business. If this applies to you I would pointedly ask your HR person what the point of PTO is if you're not allowed to use? Don't put up with any bulls**t about 'at-will' employment - it's your time so you can use for whatever reason.

If you're getting sick pay instead of PTO then you just use. Having to see a doctor should qualify as 'sick'. Make sure to get a note from the doctor.

I would ask the HR-dweeb what happens if you collapse while at work after your reasonable request was denied. The liability to the company can be huge. My brother (a carpenter) was once working as a sub-contractor on a project when the foreman for the general contractor behaved this way. Someone else on the crew had a dizzy spell during the day. he asked to go to the ER which was denied. The guy fell and was seriously injured. Thankfully he did not die. The general was assessed a very large fine from OSHA and the worker sued and got several hundred thousand dollars.

  • 3
    +1 for the second and the last two paragraphs (request in writing, doctors note and HR question). Imho in this case op should write the reason why he has to go to the doctor into the PTO request just to cover his ass because he clearly has an irresponsible manager.
    – some_coder
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 6:02
  • 7
    Definitely +1 for "I would ask the HR-dweeb what happens if you collapse while at work after your reasonable request was denied". That says it all, it can sometimes be a good thing to remind people that power comes with responsibilities.
    – m.raynal
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 8:59
  • 26
    "Submit the request in writing" for medial issues, it's not a request. It's a statement. Due to an urgent medial issue, I'm seeing a doctor at this date. I can attend work in the AM/PM before/after the appointment. There's probably no need to say any more than that.
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 10:27
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    Don't forget to bcc your personal email for any communications you think you might ever need to use as evidence. Any replies should also be forwarded to your personal email. If you do get fired, you'll immediately lose access to your company email and that evidence will no longer be available to you.
    – aleppke
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 16:03
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    In the very likely case that you submit your request in writing and your boss replies verbally, write back to your boss confirming his denial. "This message confirms that on Tuesday 10am you verbally denied my urgent request for time off at X." Send a Cc to HR and Bcc yourself at a personal email address. Every time you have a "conversation" about this issue verbally, confirm back in writing. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 16:23

Simple answer for him and HR. Quote the law to them.

I don't myself live in somewhere with these laws, so I read up a little. On Wikipedia I found At will employment with these details:

Other reasons an employer may not use to fire an at-will employee are: ... family or medical leave – federal law permits most employees to take a leave of absence for specific family or medical problems. An employer is not permitted to fire an employee who takes family or medical leave for a reason outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

So look up the details of the Act. Check whether your case fits in that category. Check whether your company is applicable (there are exemptions for smaller companies). If necessary, get your doctor to sign a letter confirming that your condition needs urgent attention and falls under this Act.

And then if they still fire you, lawyer up, because you've got a copper-bottomed case which any lawyer will love.

  • 11
    Unfortunately we who live with at will employment know that the company isn't going to officially state that you are being let go for protected reasons. The burden of proof that the company fired you for protected reasons is on the employee. This is why decriminalized suits are hard to win. OP better document document document before threatening any lawsuits.
    – Summer
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 14:31
  • 3
    @bruglesco For sure. That's where you document the hell out of it first, then present to HR and boss that you qualify (including quoting the Act, apparently, if you want the Act to cover you), then document the hell out of their responses. And of course check that you are actually covered - it only applies to medium-large companies, and you need to have been there a while, and be full-time. A lot of hoops to jump through. Still, the option is there, and people have successfully used it.
    – Graham
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 14:54
  • 1
    FMLA only kicks in after 12 months of employment. Based on my own experience, you have to also give the doctor a form to fill out that describes the medical leave, treatment, and how long they estimate the employee will be gone. If OP is having trouble getting to the doctor in the first place FMLA may not be an option (which then brings up some legal issues of its own imo). Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 15:41
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    @bruglesco "OP better document document document before threatening any lawsuits." - Almost. The OP should document, document, document, and then not give any inkling that they're considering a lawsuit. Let the service of court papers be the company's first notice that they're being sued.
    – aroth
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:57
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    @bruglesco You're correct that it's at will, but that's not how wrongful termination works. The burden is on the employer to show that that employee was not treated any differently than any other employee. If, for example, you come out at work as gay, and then get fired a month later, the company has to demonstrate that they did NOT fire you for being gay - they'll have to whip out negative performance reviews, late time-punches, or something. Then they have to show that other employees with similar performance issues were also terminated. if it worked the way proposed, zero suits would win. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 12:02

The thing I'm asking for is how to convince my manager to let me take time off. How can I do that?

You can't. Your manager is a jerk, plain and simple. If he is willing to fire someone for going to the ER, he would have no issues firing you for something less extreme.

Schedule your appointment, let your manager know that you are going ( in writing ) and then go. Don't worry about what he says or does, your health is more important than anything else.

In the meantime, you need to speak to a lawyer regarding any state or local laws regarding sick leave that may be in place to protect you from people like your manager. There may be a law that legally prevents this sort of behavior which you can approach HR with. Regardless, brush up your resume because this is a company that even if you survive this incident is not worth working for.


Caveat: IANAL, nor am I an HR professional so you may want to double check that you are covered. BUT....

Your question has a tag.

New York has what's known as "Paid Safe and Sick Leave".

If you are covered under it (there's specific categories of who is covered), it's literally illegal to deny you sick leave. If they do, you will be able to sue them. If they fire you based on that, I'm pretty sure you can sue for that (but you may want to ask about specifics on Law.SE rather than here)

  • 4
    Note that this a NYC law, not a NY State law. OP is not in NYC, so this does not apply (unfortunately).
    – Tiercelet
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 22:27

If I understand that comment correctly:

My employer does offer PTO but no one's ever actually been paid after taking Paid Time Off. It just sits in the time card website waiting to be approved

You can take day off for going to doctor. Then actions go like this:

  1. Take a day off
  2. Visit doctor
  3. Update your resume
  4. Start looking for new job
  5. Come back to work
  6. Get a new job
  7. Take legal action
  • 4
    You left off step 7 - file complaint with eeoc or other appropriate body
    – ivanivan
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 13:46
  • If the only problem is not getting paid for the sick time, that may not be so terrible. And that can even be handled easily with some legal action once the OP had a new job. But I think the OP is more worried about being fired, a very legitimate concern. I think that's not as likely to happen if suitable notice of a medical condition is given though, the manager is less likely to have a knee-jerk reaction like 'not here this morning, fire him', and HR would have a bit more time/leeway to discuss the legalities with the freak.
    – user90842
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 21:46
  • @GeorgeM i thought it is OK to take time off, specifically unpaid time off. My proposal was not to fight over 1 day salary, since it might cost the job Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 22:01
  • But time off without notice is likely to, again, cause immediate firing.
    – user90842
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:01
  • Also I see absolutely no reason for the OP to wait till after the doctor appointment to start looking for a new job. If I were him, the resume would be updated already :-)
    – user90842
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:02

This seems extremely unreasonable. If someone was ill, how are you meant to get to work if you have a immobilising condition?

Tell your manager that you're extremely ill and need urgent consultation and medication which requires you to go to the doctors.

If your manager says no, just take a sickday (I'm not condoning lying but if he's really that bad then sometimes you just have to). IANAL but I can't see many places in the world not allowing sick days as it will cause you to be fired, we're human. With this, just contact a lawyer if you are fired.

  • 9
    Generally, taking a sick day to go to the doctor is not lying - it's expected. That's one of the things sick time is for. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 18:10

Get a lawyer and threaten to sue

This should always be a last resort, but it looks like from your question that you're already out of other options given your personal constraints (see below for more explanation). It sounds like you need to talk to a lawyer (step 1), and if they concur that the law is on your side then threaten to sue your employer if you are fired for going to your appointment (step 2), possibly with your lawyer present with you (ask your lawyer the best way to go about this). Make sure to carefully follow your lawyer's instructions, and as you described, plan to leave your workplace as soon as you can. It's likely to get very ugly very quickly. But this may buy you some time before you absolutely have to leave your job while allowing you to go to your appointment.

Why not just sue if you get fired?

Because OP stated that getting fired was not an option, and given the boss' threats to OP and history of carrying through on those threats, it seems quite likely that if OP goes to the appointment the way things are right now, OP will be fired. Since that's not an option, OP needs to figure out a way to change the boss' behavior. A believable threat of litigation has the potential to do just that. Yes it is likely to poison the future relationship between OP and their employer, but OP has stated that they are on the way out anyway, they just can't leave until they find another job. This solution gives OP a chance to buy some time while allowing them to go to the appointment. They could try psychology to try to persuade the boss, but if the description of the boss' personality is accurate, it seems futile at best, and likely to backfire at worst, whereas a threat of a financially damaging lawsuit can constrain even the most unreasonable of people, if properly executed. So this solution gives the best chance of satisfying all of OP's constraints: 1) going to the appointment; 2) keeping their job until they can find another.

  • Don't threaten to sue, which is needlessly escalating the situation. But do get ready to do so - document everything!
    – user90842
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 22:57
  • I agree in general, but not in this situation. I've edited my answer to explain my reasoning.
    – bob
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 12:45
  • However since the manager is a nutcase, it's the wimpy HR person who needs threatening, not the manager himself, that'd be more effective. And unless the manager is also the CEO, this would be well worth escalating at least one level in management. They may be aware that he's nuts, they may not realize they can be sued for what he's doing.
    – user90842
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 17:00
  • Very good points. Presumably the lawyer could help advise a best strategy in a case like this.
    – bob
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 18:25

It seems that you have the legal right to seek medical attention as you want, but not the protection against a later fabricated claim or dismissal which they claim isn't related to it.

So we can reframe your problem a bit.

Your reframed problem seems to be, documenting that your work and performance are good, so that, if they later try to dismiss you, and you claim its retaliatory hence illegal, they can't stack the deck and fake a claim that you're a bad employee or have a poor record.

I'm going to read between the lines here. If you weren't a decent employee, you wouldn't be asking how to get help from a nasty manager (because you'd know he would hate you), or you'd be fired already (if he would fire someone for needing a doc for an hour, he'd surely fire someone for poor work). So I'm going to assume your work is actually good.

Now, this next bit may need to be done in some, specific legal way.

In my country I would simply ask to talk to him, say I want to check what he thinks of my work and if it's okay, does he see anything I could be doing better - and I'd either covertly record it, or covertly have an ongoing audio link (phone/chat audio call) to a reputable friend/ally, who could testify to what they heard and take notes.

In your state this could well be illegal, or need some research to find how to do it safely,or be proven another way. The idea works, but how you do it must reflect your own laws.

If later disciplined/fired, I would use it as evidence. I would justify the illicit recording as necessary, because the manager is known to be dishonest and lie about HR/employee matters. Note the neatness of this: if he is honest, it never comes to a court/lawyer/tribunal so the question of legality never arises. The only time it arises is in a case where the recording itself will prove him dishonest, where i tell the court i only took it because he is priorly known to be dishonest, as the recording proves in this case, thus retroactively justifying and confirming the need to have taken it so he can't lie to the court. So in my country I'd do it without a qualm. In yours i emphasise that you might need different evidence, or another route to prove you're a good employee. Perhaps a friend listening in, perhaps notes taken when you meet. Check.

Anyhow. You now have a legal right to a doc, and evidence cached that will tend to show you've been good and liked. If they retaliate for the doc, and claim you weren't fired in breach of your rights but only for being bad, you have your ace in the hole.

Principle - not keen on letting abusers get away with it because of exploiting the law to hide what they do. YMMV though.

  • 1
    I agree with this on principle but you might want to add a prominent disclaimer near the top that OP needs to consult with a lawyer before doing any of this. There's no telling how doing this would affect any legal case. Also would this solution prevent OP from getting fired (one of their major constraints)?
    – bob
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 12:54
  • 1) Said in about 3 places in bold, that OP may well find this isn't legal in the region, or must be done some specific legal way, to be identified. I'm mindful OP may lack resources for a US lawyer, so I leave open how to look it up - maybe there's an equivalent of Citizen's Advice or legal assistance on some insurance policy. OP will know or have to check as stated. 2) You can never stop yourself being fired in such a situation. All you can do in such a situation is minimise chances, and ensure if you are, you've put the strongest defence you can to mitigate harm, and/or claim for the loss.
    – Stilez
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:17
  • Right, I'm just suggesting making it more explicit. Currently it suggests that a suggested action may not be legal; I'm just suggesting giving the advice to talk to a lawyer. The lawyer can not only advise on legality, but also on what to do to maximize the chances of a win in court. There may be courses of action that would be legal but that would harm a court case.
    – bob
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:22
  • Regarding #2 definitely true. My point was that this answer seems to be about protecting yourself after you get fired, rather than a way to mitigate getting fired, which OP is concerned about avoiding.
    – bob
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:23
  • I don't think mitigation is possible. Manager seems to be a scummy POS in view of OP who would be happy even a good employee died on the job for fear of job loss, or would use it as an excuse for future workplace abuse, games, or power play, of only grant after abject grovell-begging on knees. In other words OP lacks a reliable mitigation of risk, and therefore "what to do" MUST focus on an assumption "what if, even after stating legal rights, its never mention it again or visit doc with high risk of hostile subsequent action." OP suggests he can NOT do enough to mitigate risk of abuse is all.
    – Stilez
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 18:28

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