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I have a telehealth appointment coming up and asked to take the time off work needed to go home for the appointment and then return. This usually isn't an issue with my manager but for some reason he has deflected my asking for the partial sick day/pto and has insisted I attend my appointment in his office since he plans to be out during that time anyways.

Attending such a personal meeting at work already makes me uncomfortable but to make it worse, I know for a fact that you can hear whatever is said in there from the office next door even if the doors are closed. In addition, his recent change in attitude makes me suspicious and feel like he could be recording what is said during my appointment.

I've already told him that I don't want to do that and want to go home for my appointment but he is still deflecting. Do I have enough to make a case with our HR department or is there something else I should do to try and resolve this issue?

If it matters, I'm in the USA.

Some additional details based on comments:

  1. I scheduled this about a month in advance when only 5 days is required here.
  2. I'm transgender but haven't told them so I doubt they know and are being transphobic.
  3. I can't attend from my phone primarily because I have no signal and don't have anywhere private to call from. A car is not private when the appointment may involve taking off clothing for any reason.
  4. I'm already looking for another job and may have something lined up that I can leave in a few weeks.
  5. I live really close to work.
  6. I wouldn't attend a private medical appointment anywhere except my own home or a medical facility.
  7. I have had an issue recently were I fainted/passed out and was out sick for 3 days but made it clear that this appointment was unrelated and had been scheduled before I had this issue. I told them it was primarily for a private matter (my HRT/transition; didn't specify to them) but we may discuss the recent issue at the end. The current thought is it was stress related (more reason for me to leave this job).
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  • 31
    What is a "telehealth" appointment? What does that mean/entail? I've never even heard the word.
    – mrodo
    Nov 2, 2021 at 17:19
  • 29
    It is a virtual medical visit. Instead of going into your doctor's office, you meet with them remotely typically over a video call.
    – CConard96
    Nov 2, 2021 at 17:45
  • 16
    Do you have a vehicle you can hide in to take this call, yours or someone else's? Nov 2, 2021 at 17:54
  • 37
    The simple answer to "Can you attend a telehealth appointment at work" is to answer that very unreasonable request with a very simple answer, "absolutely not". Is your supervisor actually denying your sick leave unless you attend this telehealth appointment in their office? Is it to late to just go into the doctor's office?
    – Donald
    Nov 2, 2021 at 19:57
  • 1
    @Andrei This does make a lot of assumptions, that I can not follow just from what OP said. Also Answers don't belong into comments.
    – Kami Kaze
    Nov 5, 2021 at 8:13

5 Answers 5

97

If you feel your manager is not listening to you, then HR or your manager's boss are your best options. You've earned the PTO, so it's up to you when you take it. Some companies may have policies about timing and requirements for requesting early, but in the end it is your PTO and you can use it how and when you choose.

As an alternative, take the entire day. If your manager isn't cool with the half day, then take the full day. In the future, don't tell your manager why you're taking PTO. Leave it at "I've got some personal stuff to take care of."

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    Not always so simple. Taking time off for a doctor's appointment, whether in-person or virtual, would typically be considered "sick leave", which often has much less of a requirement for advance notice than "vacation" or "personal time". Nov 2, 2021 at 22:47
  • 2
    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact: Always a possibility. Some companies do make that distinction, and typically the requirements for sick leave are much less stringent unless it's extended. I would think a sick leave policy would give OP greater flexibility here. Nov 2, 2021 at 23:45
  • 3
    This answer assumes only PTO is involved, but the question actually said "sick day/pto". Sick leave isn't more flexible than PTO. The former has to be justified while the latter does not. Nov 3, 2021 at 10:25
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact, the phrase "not always so simple" when talking about vacation time usually involves talking about how obstinate or authoritarian an employer is about allowing their employees to take time off. With few and very specific exemptions, any kind of PTO should be a notification that the employee needs/wants to take time off work, rather than a request for permission to do so. Many of us in the US know just how backwards asking permission is, sort of like asking permission to go to the bathroom in school. Work isn't daycare, us adults can make decisions for ourselves. Nov 3, 2021 at 14:58
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact, that's the typical example used to say why taking time off hurts co-workers or the business. The reality of that example is the store is purposefully understaffed to increase profits and to prevent people from taking time off. It's not the employee's fault the store is perpetually understaffed for the sake of the owner's pocketbook. I've worked retail, food service, construction, computer repair, software development and more. I know how this works and it's usually unrealistic to how employees need to handle their lives. Nov 3, 2021 at 15:19
113

I generally tend towards being pretty paranoid about work privacy and health issues, but since no one else has suggested this yet, is it possible that your manager thinks he is genuinely doing you a favor? He may think that he's being kind and saving you PTO, without realizing your privacy concerns or that his office isn't very soundproof. And his insistence may be just a cultural thing, like with gift-giving where the recipient is expected to refuse symbolically and the giver is expected to keep insisting until they accept.

If this is the case (as opposed to your manager having malicious intent) you can just tell him that his office isn't soundproof and you are uncomfortable about the privacy and charging the company for personal business. If you believe I'm just being optimistic, then Joel's answer is correct.

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    This is also the first thing that came to mind and I am usually pretty pessimistic, so be moderately appreciative just in case he is that rare "genuinely good person that didn't think through the situation fully".
    – VSO
    Nov 3, 2021 at 4:04
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    The manager could be thinking that they are doing OP a favor, but after OP pushed back and they stuck with it this possibility becomes less likely. At least, unless OP and their manager have massive communication issues or the manager has no emotional intelligence at all...
    – xLeitix
    Nov 3, 2021 at 9:20
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    I like this answer and up voted it, but it's more for other situations. I'm with @xLeitix in that this manager insisting on the OP use their office after the OP stated their reservations generally means the manager is not trying to do a favor be being manipulative, instead. And worse, the manager may become mad that their manipulation isn't working. Nov 3, 2021 at 15:02
  • @xLeitix My wife is Persian, and the culture from Iran has a different view. If you say "no" it isn't because you don't want it, it's because you are offering the person a chance to show how generous they are by giving them the chance to offer again. In the USA, we don't do that, we say "oh, that seems like too much trouble" instead of "no". Likewise any host offers way too much to a guest in this culture, and the host expects the guest to say no. So if the host over-offers, they don't have to deliver. It is nearly insane, but that's how that culture works. EI is following it, for them.
    – Edwin Buck
    Nov 9, 2021 at 21:19
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Send an email:

Hello $boss.

I really appreciate your offer to use your office for my telehealth appointment on $date. However, a doctor's appointment means I might have to take my clothes off for diagnosis and I really don't feel comfortable doing that in any office in our company. I'm sure it's against some regulation and HR would probably have a heart attack just thinking about it.

So I will be out of the office on $date between $starttime and $endtime.

If your boss really is weird enough to continue to insist on this, forward the email and your bosses response to HR.

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    I have no idea... neither has the OP. That's why I suggested to say "I might have to". It always is a possibility, you never know what a doctor may want to see to diagnose you correctly.
    – nvoigt
    Nov 2, 2021 at 15:34
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    To be fair, I'm transgender and this is my first appointment since starting HRT so anything is possible and makes it even more uncomfortable for me to attend at work. I'm not out to anyone there and haven't told them that's what it is for (none of their business). It isn't out of the question my doctor would want to review the physical changes.
    – CConard96
    Nov 2, 2021 at 16:13
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    I don't see any reason why you should say anything other than that you're not comfortable doing telehealth from the workplace. Especially since the more reasons you provide, the more likely the other party is to come up with "solutions" - ie. use my office etc. Nov 3, 2021 at 0:54
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    I wouldn't mention clothes. "The doctor may have to use my phone camera for diagnosis, and I'd be uncomfortable doing that in the office" might be a bit less direct.
    – Yakk
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:34
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    With that said, the general strategy of this answer seems valid. I’d replace the stuff about taking your clothes off with something along the lines of “I really appreciate your offer to use your office for my telehealth appointment. However, our work premises do not meet my privacy needs for this appointment. So I will be out of the office on [etc]”
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 4, 2021 at 7:28
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First call your doctor's office and ask if they'd be ok with it

Your doctor's office may be really paranoid about patient privacy and may refuse your appointment if taken in your workplace. It's worth checking with them first. If they say it's a "no go", you have ammunition with your employer. If on the other hand they give it a green-light, don't mention this to your boss--fall back on your own personal hesitation, which is fully valid. I for one would not be ok with this kind of thing.

I say this because doctors offices I've worked with seem pretty paranoid about telehealth from a policy standpoint (particularly with regard to their own HIPAA compliance as a healthcare provider) and so they may well say "no way!" to this idea, again giving you some pretty big ammunition with your boss.

Note: don't tell your boss you're going to do this. Just do it.

Also I'd check laws in your area

IANAL but it sounds like your employer may be doing something illegal by trying to force you to take a doctors appointment onsite. Maybe. Again, IANAL...

Note that this approach could backfire

Only use this approach if you don't feel comfortable (or can't afford to) take the more direct approach of saying "I don't feel comfortable with that" and not backing down no matter what. Personally I prefer a direct approach when I can, as giving reasons can give the other person leverage for argumentation. But if you can't or don't want to draw a line in the sand with your boss, this approach may provide you cover, assuming your boss takes the doctor's word as final.

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    I can confirm that there are doctors that won't do telehealth appointments unless you can assure them of privacy on your end for legal reasons.
    – BSMP
    Nov 3, 2021 at 8:53
  • @BSMP I'm surprised--generally it's your choice who you bring with you to a doctor's appointment, thus it should be your choice who is around on a teleappointment. Nov 3, 2021 at 22:31
  • I would be reluctant to take this approach. The boss might say something like "just tell them it's your home office if they ask." I would not give any openings for objections. Just state that I'm not comfortable doing the appointment from the office and I will be going home to do it. As in not asking you for permission, telling you what is happening. Especially since getting fired would probably not be a major issue.
    – nasch
    Nov 4, 2021 at 23:20
  • Yeah, it's a risk and I don't disagree. I personally would take your approach. Mine is only for people who aren't ready to simply say "no".
    – bob
    Nov 5, 2021 at 12:49
  • What difference does the doctor's opinion make? The OP doesn't need the doctor's permission to give a "no" to their employer? Granted, sometimes it's nice to have a scapegoat...
    – spuck
    Nov 9, 2021 at 18:29
9

To me, it seems like he thinks (actually fears) you have job interview at another company, that's why he brings you in this awkward situation. While I don't necessarily think he would be spying on you, neither listening at the door, nor recording, he knows that nobody would like to have a job interview in the current bosses office and a doctor's appointment is the usual excuse for job interviews. Since your reaction was rather strong in refusing the offer, he feels his point proven, you "failed" the test.

You were talking about "recent change in attitude", so I feel he might be afraid of losing a valuable employee without replacement. What led to this change in attitude, has there been a specific situation, e.g. an important coworker leaving, you voicing general concerns about your tasks/position or any other situation that could imply things are not going great? Is there anything that could lead him to these kind of thoughts and how irreplaceable are you to the department/company?

Stress that it's a health-related issue, while not going into details and also voice your concerns regarding privacy and discussing medical issues in the office. Hopefully it's just a misunderstanding that does not require escalation, but if not - the other answers have a lot of good approaches including HR or the managers' boss.

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    "You were talking about "recent change in attitude", so I feel he might be afraid of losing a valuable employee without replacement." I think it's also entirely possible that they've figured out that the OP is transexual, and have started treating them differently as a result.
    – nick012000
    Nov 4, 2021 at 9:24

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