16

In the morning about two hours before a meeting I messaged by manager to tell them I was going to a doctors appointment and I would miss the morning meeting, and asked to reschedule it (it's a small company). I ended up also missing a 2nd meeting in the afternoon. My manager was upset and said that because I missed half a day, unless I had a sick note, they would apply unpaid leave for that day.

They said that I took an unauthorised absence and after 3 strikes I would be sacked. They also said that I should have told them about the appointment earlier and because the afternoon appointment was with clients, it was important, and that they would have prevented me from going to that doctor's appointment if they knew earlier. This was more of a hospital outpatient appointment, hence why it took so long, and I could not miss it. I joined the company recently.

I had just come back from a one week sick leave and they said that I "took a week off and then missed the first meeting of the week". They were also angry that this was the 3rd time that at short notice I could not make the meeting because of a doctor's appointment. My manager has also missed this same meeting due to their doctors appointments at short notice or being sick, so although I understand why they're upset, I'm not the only one who's done it.

My manager then went on to say that while I was away they set a company-wide rule that if any employee doesn't fill in their timesheet by 5 pm each day, they would apply unpaid leave for that day and not only would the employee not get paid for that day or those days, it would cause problems for that employee's health insurance.

Our conversation was cordial and I was not made to feel my job was under threat. I promised to always tell them about doctors appointments well in advance.

I wanted to know what all this means for me and my job, and if their threats and actions are legal?

UPDATE

I had a daily meeting with my manager and was unexpectedly joined by a senior member of the company who mostly stayed silent. I'm not sure why he was there.

My manager started nitpicking a draft pull request I opened (minor issues, a few mistakes not huge problems). Some were valid, others were not. Saying that I'm repeating most of the problems we already fixed, and that if they're gonna spend hours on my pull request, they might as well do the work themselves. Not so subtle hint. My manager asked me whether I'm making these mistakes because I'm sick or something else, and what I can do so that they don't happen again. This is the first time I've seen my manager unhappy with my work. I promised to take more notes to remember stuff we talked about.

My manager also mentioned what time my online status came back online. My online status is now also being monitored. When they opened my pull request, they also made a remark that I started working on this a month ago. The commit history says commits were added last month not that they were added a month ago.

I believe that if a company wants to fire you they'll find a reason to. This feels like they're planting evidence, to use as a pretext. Oh boy, all because of a damn doctors' appointment.

Why can't they be like this guy's boss: I missed an important client meeting and hurt my standing. How can I recover?.

At least in my case I wasn't even aware of the client meeting before it happened.

5
  • 1
    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:02
  • Could you clarify whether you think your manager might want to fire you because you have medical appointments, or because you don't show up for meetings and don't give nearly as much notice as you could? The former is pretty solidly unlawful, the latter is a pretty good cause for dismissal.
    – user140582
    Jul 7, 2023 at 22:22
  • Yes it's clear what they're doing. I think two weeks notice. You may be onto something. The only one higher than my manager is the CEO and he was the one who organized the meeting with clients. I know missing a meeting like I did is not good, but if an employer decides to sack an employee after just one infraction, it's a red flag on them. It made no sense for the other person to join the call.
    – Duzii2
    Jul 8, 2023 at 21:42
  • Could you clarify whether this was indeed a 'first infraction', or at least the third? Because in the question body you state that: "They were also angry that this was the 3rd time that at short notice I could not make the meeting because of a doctor's appointment."
    – user140582
    Jul 8, 2023 at 23:00
  • 1
    With the update I highly recommend a new question on what to do now, the situation went into territory of "how to prevent being unfairly fired, or what to do about it". And obviously start job hunting.
    – Aida Paul
    Jul 9, 2023 at 18:30

7 Answers 7

59

Oh boy, where do we start...

Okay, so legally, they can require you to bring a note from a doctor every time you miss even the tiniest amount of work. That can come in the form of a sick note if you miss whole days on doctors orders, it may also come as a doctors note just testifying to the fact that you were in their practice from time X to Y on day Z. The only exception where they might be allowed to question that is if you have routine checks scheduled. So for example, they can ask you to please wait another two weeks for your annual routine check with the dentist if that means you can schedule it outside of working hours. If you have something acute, they have no say. You go see a doctor, there is nothing they can do about it.

If you have a sick note, or a note from a doctor that you visited them, even if you did not get a sick note, then legally, you are fine. Your only duty is to inform them of it, as soon as you know you are going to miss work. For example if you get your Monday morning appointment on Friday evening, you can write them an email. Even if it won't be read by anybody before Monday morning anyway, you did your part.

No matter what system they cook up, what "strikes" they count, or whatever else they do, medical leave is never a valid reason to fire you or write you an "Abmahnung", the precursor to firing. Not even during probation (although since you may be fired during probation for no reason at all, that might be a little hard to prove, But if they fired you for three "strikes" during probation although you have doctors notes, that would be highly illegal). The only technicallity they could get you on is not informing them of going to the doctor. Since you could literally slip and hurt yourself in front of the office building on the way to work, there is no minimum notification time. Just "as soon as you know".

Be aware that sick leave is paid, a doctors appointment without sick leave, while your right to take and protected from repercussions, is unpaid leave. You need to either make up the time afterwards if that's possible, or take unpaid leave.

My manager then went on to say that while I was away they set a company-wide rule that if any employee doesn't fill in their timesheet by 5 pm each day, they would apply unpaid leave for that day and not only would the employee not get paid for that day or those days, it would cause problems for that employee's health insurance.

That is a huuuge load of bull crap. You cannot be docked a days pay for forgetting to fill out a form on time. That is illegal. Not paying the health insurance for a day you worked is fraud on their end. This is highly questionable.

Questioning you on medical leaves, and this policy, for me seems like a highly toxic workplace. I have never heard of this, and the norm in Germany is that you just call before your shift or business hours and say "hey, I'm sorry, I have to go see the doctor this morning". Anything but "Oh, I am sorry, get well soon" is considered an absolute asshole move.

So... think hard about whether you want to work at a company that treats their employees this way. This is way below standard in Germany and if everything they told you is true, certainly illegal.

1
19

Putting the legal stuff to one side.

They were also angry that this was the 3rd time that at short notice I could not make the meeting because of a doctor's appointment.

Yeah, they've got every right to be annoyed. I don't know how much notice the German medical system gives, but given it's a socialized healthcare system (similar to NZ and the UK) - normally Appointments are scheduled days/weeks in advance. Now, to give you the benefit of the doubt, it could be that due to the specifics of your condition that might not always be the case - in which case, you should absolutely get a Doctors note explaining why there is a lack of notice.

Reading the rest of your post - what sticks out to me is that you've just joined the company - There's a difference between an employee who works for a company for 2-3 years and then has a medical condition that requires a week off and a couple of last minute Doctors appointments vs someone who has just joined and has the same even though technically there shouldn't be - people have no baseline of performance/work ethic to judge you by and so aren't as generous.

Let's assume for the sake of things that it's just a fluke coincidence that you've had an issue and it's coincided with you starting at your new job, that happens - all you can really do is put your head down and work hard and demonstrate that it was just a coincidence.

4
  • 4
    Okay thanks. Some of those 3 doctors appointments were acute so it was not planned.
    – Duzii2
    Jul 6, 2023 at 8:49
  • 21
    Germany doesn't have a socialized medical system. It has a mandatory, and tightly regulated, system of health insurance like most European countries. Also, IME, you can nearly always get a same day appointment when you need one. Jul 6, 2023 at 15:33
  • 6
    @Duzii2 in that case you should have no problem getting a doctor's note confirming it. I don't want to sound unsympathetic, but if you lose money you've gained a lesson: your company and colleagues were making the money to pay you in your absence. Jul 7, 2023 at 6:43
  • 1
    A doctor’s note doesn’t state a reason for your visit, only the time and day you were there. I think here in Austria any further detail or explanation for your visit would probably even be illegal because medical information is confidential.
    – Michael
    Jul 8, 2023 at 10:52
14

What does it mean?

It means you should stop missing meetings!

You missed the internal morning meeting at extremely short notice, missed the afternoon meeting with clients at no notice at all, and this is the "third time" a meeting has been missed (although I'm unsure whether the two already mentioned are reckoned in the three, or whether we are now at 4 or 5 missed meetings in total).

I don't get any hint that you're saying your health condition is such as to strike suddenly. Instead the flavour I'm getting is that you're being unreasonably cavalier with your diary management and with other people's time.

I think that's why your manager is starting to talk about "unauthorised absence" and "firing". Not over medical appointments, but over a failure to suitably arrange work and medical appointments together.

The suspicion, from their point of view, might also be that you aren't being honest, but are using a "doctor's appointment" as an excuse for a different cause of absence, especially if you are repeatedly not offering any evidence to justify why the attendance was urgent or why you didn't know in advance.

1
7

On your side I see two or three points that you could have done better:

  • If you need to miss work for health reasons, give notice as soon as you can. Friday afternoon vs. Monday morning makes a difference for people who check their e-mail during the weekend. I don’t see whether and when you informed your company about the afternoon appointment – the same would apply here: give notice as soon as you know.
  • Limit drawing this option to actual sickness or medical appointments which cannot be reasonably postponed.
  • If you can get a sick note, get one and present it – to prevent any suspicions of abuse or carelessness.

However, I do see potential signs of an unhealthy atmosphere at work:

  • Getting reprimanded for “taking a week off and then missing the first meeting of the week”, making it sound like your sick leave was a vacation, is a no-go. Sick leave is not a generous gesture on the part of your company, it is a legal right you have, and exercising this right should not be held against you. (Note that scheduled medical appointments are different from that.)
  • If your manager misses meetings at short notice but reprimands you when you do, that may be legally OK (they may have a different contract than you do) but I would consider it bad style. It comes across as saying “quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi”.
  • Docking pay for not filling in a timesheet for the day by 17:00 – besides the practical issue (you might work beyond 17:00, something urgent comes up in that time and your forecast is no longer accurate), it is likely illegal. Not a good sign.
  • As for your online status, your manager might just happen to have noticed this particular instance. If they were to systematically monitor online status, this might also be legally problematic.
  • While I cannot judge the quality of your work, if management perception has taken a turn for the worse, that may or may not be retaliation.

That includes some questions that I cannot answer for you. Use the pointers I gave you to judge how much of your situation is due to poor handling on your part, and how much is a toxic work atmosphere at the company.

Since you say you generally have a good relationship with your manager and you have a daily meeting (I suppose that it is a 1:1 meeting), you might ask him about the presence of the senior member being present in the meeting you mentioned: was it related to issues in your work results, and if so, how?

If, after all that, you come to the conclusion that the atmosphere at your work place is toxic, start looking for something else. When you do, make sure you notify your new company in time when you need to miss work.

1
  • Thanks a lot, this is easily one of the best answers. I made several mistakes and I'll take this to heart When you do, make sure you notify your new company in time when you need to miss work.. About the senior member who joined the call, he's not a developer so his presence doesn't make sense. My guess is that he's acting as a witness in case they need support for an action they take against me. Too bad, I like the work I'm doing and working with my manager. Maybe I need to win their respect/trust. God kicks you into sickness, and humans kick you into unemployment 😅
    – Duzii2
    Jul 7, 2023 at 17:00
3

In general you have no right to schedule any private appointments within your work time, unless you get approval of management beforehand.

This also applies to doctor appointments, unless they are urgent or necessarily at a given time (for example if you need a blood draw, which usually has to happen in the morning). Also you are required to inform your company about planned absences, (even if they are inevitable) asap.

Now legally. To get fired on the spot is not that easy in Germany. Unless it's grave misconduct, you need to be given at least one (usually 3) official warnings ("Abmahnung") first and they need to relate to the same subject. So a general 3-strike rule for different subjects would not be ok. Since Abmahnungen are legally a pretty difficult topic, they are usually given in writing. But legally they don't need to! So this one "warning" given by your manager could already count as one.

Since you mentioned, that you only recently joined the company. If you are still in your trial period ("Probezeit") which is usually 6 months, you can usually be fired instantly without giving any reason.

While it is not nice to see your manager doing the same thing, what he scolds you for, it is nothing of your concern. He might have different obligations/conditions in his contract and only owes responsibility towards his boss.

In general you should work on your communication. Communicate planned absences asap and try schedule them outside work time, or ask for a permission beforehand! if not possible otherwise.

1
  • 3
    At least here in Austria there are several legally valid reasons for absence from work. One of them is a doctor’s appointment for which you only have to make a “reasonable effort” to have it outside of business hours.
    – Michael
    Jul 8, 2023 at 11:00
3

Oh boy, all because of a damn doctors' appointment.

No. Not just over a doctor's appointment. This seems to be a variety of issues about your work ethic, and you're currently on course to be fired for cause. That will happen unless they see readily visible change.

But yes, the very obvious work ethic problem is your habit of notifying the employer about the appointment only hours before the appointment in every case, not just when it actually is last-minute. You should have notified them the moment you yourself were aware of the appointment. No one wants to keep you from needed health care, but the last-minute notification of each appointment makes it appear to be excuses for some other activity. If you had notified as early as possible on the other appointments, the late notice on one would not have been so concerning.

Here's how it should work:
Call doctor. They propose schedule.
(check company meeting app) "I can't do 08:30.... 10:15 yes I can do that."
Immediately call boss: "I have a 10:15 doctor appointment on Thursday"
Boss: "Can you move it? We'll have a 10:00 with client."
You call back doctor: "Other times? 11:45? Thanks."
Call boss: "Moved it, I have to leave the office at 10:45 though."
Boss: "Fine thanks".
Schedule the doctor time and travel into the meeting app

See, that works if you talk to your boss immediately. If you wait until the appointment is imminent, now the doctor is all booked up and that 11:45 slot is no longer available.

On the hospital visit, since you knew or reasonably should have known these could be lengthy, you should have told them the moment you knew, that this could be an all-day thing.

This feels like they're planting evidence, to use as a pretext.

No. What's happening is your indifference to the company's needs regarding your medical appointments is causing them to examine your work ethic, and they are now examining your other work in that light. You will need to suffer more of this scrutiny for quite awhile (or until fired), so sharpen your CV and/or work really hard on your engagement to the job.

I promised to take more notes to remember stuff we talked about.

Well that sounds faked, like things people say when they don't really believe what they're saying but feel like they need to say something. And that will have been noticed by your boss and manager, and reflects further on work ethic.

I don't think you and your boss are communicating very well, and that's something you want to correct ASAP if you want to stay.

6
  • Okay, thanks for your answer. Well that sounds faked, like things people say when they don't really believe what they're saying but feel like they need to say something. What should I say then? I also promised to give ample notice next time.
    – Duzii2
    Jul 8, 2023 at 8:34
  • And how can I communicate better with my boss? I'll keep him informed of any appointments I have.
    – Duzii2
    Jul 8, 2023 at 8:39
  • Think hard about how this communication gap happened in the first place. Make an effort to be more attuned to what your boss needs and what the boss cares about. Break the ice socially so the interaction isn't like a sargeant to a private and more like confidants. Jul 8, 2023 at 18:05
  • Thanks. I think I'll tell them that I'll try to get doctor appointments outside of work hours.
    – Duzii2
    Jul 8, 2023 at 18:08
  • 3
    Don't even bother to tell them, just do it. They're less interested in the promises than witnessing you actually do it correctly. Promises can even make you seem less reliable. It sounds weak, and makes a liar out of you if you fail to keep that promise. If they use a meeting app, make sure you're checking it before scheduling, to not accidentally schedule a doctors appointment against a meeting.Mark your doctor time into that app too. Jul 8, 2023 at 18:15
1

Being absent on short notice or no notice is something that you should obviously try to avoid, especially if you miss important meetings because of that. Your manager will be understandably annoyed by this, even if you had a legitimate reason.

The "filling out timesheets by 5pm or you don't get paid" on the other hand seems to me to be quite illegal. For a start, if you are supposed to work until 5pm, you can only fill your timesheet properly if all the work is done, so this seems to be quite nonsensical to me. Not paying you for time you worked is illegal, whether you filled out a timesheet or not. They might delay payment, but they cannot refuse to pay. And not paying you for the time of your hospital appointment also seems illegal.

But the effect is that your employer wants to get rid of you, it seems, and they likely will. If it happens, you can ask an employment lawyer what your chances are to make them pay, first for work they didn't pay, second for constructive dismissal.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .