Good morning everybody,

As I am typing this message, the sky outside my window is brightening, and the "woosh" sounds of traffic are increasing. A couple of hours before 6:26 am, the streets were quiet and solemn. I know this because I spent the whole night awake and in severe pain from an impacted wisdom tooth. The left side of my throat is sore, and the gum covering the tooth is swollen. When I try to swallow water or eat food, I can barely tolerate it.

Here are my questions: Is my severe wisdom tooth pain considered to be a medical emergency and a legitimate reason to leave work? Is my boss under legal right to refuse my leave?

Background details:

Currently, I have two jobs. The first job is in retail as a casual part-time, meaning I only get 19 hours a week max. I only work on the weekends now because my second job is temp full time from Monday through Friday. As expected, I am a saleswoman who constantly has to chat with customers. I have been working with the company for over a year, and have accumulated about 40 hours of sick leave.

On Thursday my boss texted me to confirm my shift for Saturday. This was before my pain grew this severe. I agreed to continue with my shift. As the day went on the pain grew and by Friday morning it increased to the point where I couldn't properly open my jaw. So I text my manager to let her know I wanted to take the day off to get the wisdom tooth addressed on Saturday since the physician who does wisdom tooth extractions is only there on certain dates. I asked a coworker to cover my shift, but sadly she was not available. I suggested to come in and then leave for the procedure and come back for closing time after the effects of anesthesia wears off. But she quickly discarded the idea, saying I wouldn't be fit to work. (My shift was not closing time but mid shift from 12:30-8:45)

But the problem is, I am not even fit to work right now WITH the tooth inside...

To my surprise, my boss did not seem to approve of me taking the day off since we are understaffed and I had already confirmed with her that I was going to show up for my shift. She can't cover me because she "can't go over her hours." She said, "ultimately I have to run the business and decisions have to be made". Now I am left wondering what she meant by that. I understand we are understaffed, but I don't see why that could have happened when our busiest times are in the summer season. However, I know decisions have to be made, and I am thinking of walking out of work.

  • "Is my severe wisdom tooth pain consider a medical emergency" No. A medical emergency would be you face imminent death if you don't get treatment. – Andy Jul 20 '19 at 16:37
  • Thank you for your response. – user107088 Jul 20 '19 at 16:42
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    @Andy, a Medical Emergency can also be something that would have long-term consequences if not addressed-- it doesn't have to be potentially "fatal". That said, denying someone a day off to visit the dentist because of severe tooth pain is vicious and cruel. – teego1967 Jul 20 '19 at 17:03
  • @teego1967 Yes, but delay treatment for a toothache is not one of those things either. I don't think the OP would have been denied the day off to get this looked at if it were done days earlier when she was asked to confirm her shift, but hours beforehand when no one else is available may leave little choice. I went through this too, so I sympathize, but if the OP really needs to keep this job, she may just have to deal for now. – Andy Jul 20 '19 at 17:06
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    > needs healthcare > but has to go to work American detected – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 20 '19 at 23:56
  1. Go to the dentist and have your wisdom tooth fixed
  2. Inform you boss in writing (e-mail) that you are unfit to work and need to take care of this. Do this as soon as possible
  3. Have the doc write a note that you were in no shape to go to work and how long you will need to recover before you can do your job again.
  4. Send copy of this note to your boss (photo by e-mail is fine). Texting is NOT good enough, you want a record that you sent it.
  5. Take care of yourself and make sure that you are fit for work. This may not be a trivial procedure and if you get an infection or complication, it's just going to get worse for everyone.
  6. Deal with the consequences and your boss when you get back to work.

Chances are, there will be no real consequences if you follow the steps above and properly document every step. You are operating within your rights and what you do is totally reasonable and hard to argue with.

If your boss really takes issue with that, it's time to look for alternatives. Taking care of yourself is more important.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user44108 Jul 22 '19 at 6:54