I work for a popular grocery store in the deli department to be specific.

Today I came to work feeling okay until 2 hours into my shift. I started feeling sick. So I waited for my Deli Manager to come in. When she arrived I asked to go home. She told me she doesn't have anyone to come in and cover my shift. I went above her to ask the store director. She said the same thing and had me wait until the next person to come in.

I literally suffered in pain and cried. They had me work in the back so that customers wouldn't see me in tears. Once a person came in after 5 hours into my shift, I clocked out and went to a clinic and got diagnosed with an illness.

I left work feeling like it didn't matter to anyone how I was feeling. Nobody would listen to reason.

What can I do if my boss won't let me go home when I don't feel too well so that I don't create conflict between my employer and myself?

  • 3
    While I sympathize with the ordeal you had to go through, I've voted to close this as I'm not sure what kind of answers you are looking for. Absent laws that protect your job in cases of illness or regulations that prohibit you from working if you've got a highly communicable disease, the simple truth is that assholes can fire you for being sick. (You're in a grey area for FMLA). Are you looking for advice on how to get them to let you go home should it happen again? Are you asking about strategies to raise this horrible treatment with your management once you're back at work?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 0:41
  • I appreciate the comments.. Finding another job just may be the case. I've been with the company since 2006. I felt sick and asked to go home. I was told no. I really didn't think I was able to complete my task at hand. Not knowing I was contagious, I felt scared and clueless as what to do. I never came to work sick let alone had a strep throat. Found this site asking google and figure I'd ask.
    – MsVTso
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 3:22
  • 9
    "She told me she doesn't have anyone to come in and cover my shift" then she should have rolled up her sleeves! Bloody hell not only is it your health, but working in a deli where food is prepared while being sick is putting her customers' health at risk too! She couldn't tell that what you had wasn't contagious (whether it was or not)
    – komodosp
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 14:13
  • @MsVTso I am sorry to hear that after 10 years with the company they feel that it is ok to treat you like this. I decided to flag your question and see if it could be moved to law.stackexchange.com because it sounds like they violated your rights and even put other people in danger.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 14:36
  • It's not that it's off-topic, it's that it wasn't clear in the post body what the question was. I edited the post slightly to make that question more clear. We'll let the community decide if this can be reopened. If anyone else sees a way to edit this post to make it more clear, please do! It's another way to give back to the community and help others.
    – jmort253
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 12:53

6 Answers 6


I am assuming you are in a country where being sick is a protected status and you cannot be fired for it. If this is not the case, you need to fight for better labor laws and until then find a better manager.

The first mistake you made was asking. You don't ask people, when you don't want them to pick the answer that suits them. Asking is creating the impression that your level of sickness is somehow negotiable.

When you are sick, you inform your direct coworkers that you are sick and unfit for work and leaving. Then you pack your stuff. Then you go to your manager and inform him that you are sick and unfit for work and you are leaving for a doctor right now. Then you go out the door and head straight for a doctor. As soon as you got the sick note from your doctor, communicate this to your manager or HR department the usual way.

  • 43
    "The first mistake you made was asking." So true.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 9:35
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 11:15

To answer the headline of the question: In that case, you leave, see a doctor, and if the boss complains you complain as high up as possible about them.

While strep throat is deeply unpleasant, and you should have stayed away from others, there are other illnesses like meningitis that could kill you if not treated. I doubt that either your Deli Manager or your store manager is qualified to diagnose what illness you have.

And as others noted first, having my food prepared by a sick employee is not what I want as a customer, and keeping you to work in that kind of workplace is very likely to be a serious health and safety violation.

  • I don't know if this is how laws/regulations around this work, but I would imagine that they might be able to claim they didn't know he was sick, and hence it wasn't technically a health/safety violation...
    – user541686
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 12:00
  • 4
    @Mehrdad They can't claim that if the employee has explicitly informed them they are sick, as appears to be the case here.
    – RB.
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 12:56
  • @RB.: Does "feeling well" mean "sick" though? My point was the employee hasn't gone to the doctor, she he doesn't know if he's sick yet. So it could've theoretically just been some kind of pain unrelated to a disease (or at least a communicable one)... not saying it's sensible but I'm wondering if it might have legal weight.
    – user541686
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 20:03
  • 3
    I think if an employee told you they were "feeling unwell", and you worked with food, then the relevant authorities would destroy you if your customers started getting food poisoning. They wouldn't bother to split hairs about semantic differences - they would just tell you that you should have reasonably believed the employee was sick and fine you up the wazoo.
    – RB.
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 20:05

On one level, I can understand them because they had no one to cover your shift. On the other hand, they could have asked someone from the employee pool including your co-worker who came in 5 hours into your shift to come and cover for you. It doesn't look like they lifted a finger since you were to "wait until the next person comes in"

Unfortunately for you, you work in retail/service and there is a lot of low level and middle level "management" that act like scum to their staff. While expecting their staff to go above and beyond in delivering customer satisfaction.

I can't believe that your managers didn't bother to even ask you if you wanted any kind of medicine to ease your suffering and pain.

I suggest that, if you live in the United States, that you contact your state's Department of Labor. They may be able to do something for you, or they may not. You say this is a grocery store? There may be a food handling violation right there.

  • 13
    "there is a lot of low level and middle level "management" that act like scum to their staff". Indeed, and they apparently don't think highly of their customers either. I'd really prefer that my sandwiches and cold cuts NOT be prepared by somebody with a communicable disease. Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 23:44
  • 4
    "I can't believe that your managers didn't bother to even ask you if you wanted any kind of medicine to ease your suffering and pain." - I was taught on a first aid course that nobody is allowed to hand out any kind of medication to an employee. If the employee wants an over the counter medicine they need to get it themself. (exceptions being prescribed medication such as epi-pens). Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 15:01
  • @jimmycarr - the managers should not be handing medicines to the employee that the employee is not asking for. Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 16:57
  • Managers should not be handing out medicine full stop. It is unlikely but if the employee has an allergic reaction and dies (extreme but possible scenario) the management would still be liable even if there was verbal consent. How are they going to prove the person was asking for it? Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 23:40
  • @jimmycarr - They don't have to prove anything if the setting is the United States: the accused gets the benefit of the doubt. Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 23:58

I've worked at a grocery store deli before, so I'm aware of the types of attitudes you've encountered regarding maintaining enough staff to cover the schedule.

I also know that being short-staffed is inconvenient, but inevitable.

In situations where your supervisor is refusing to let you go, you have at least one recourse, and possibly a second.

If you are in a union, contact the union representative. Explain the situation, point out that handling food is a major part of your job, and ask them to intervene on your behalf.

Failing that, you simply tell your manager that you are sick, you handle food, and that the deli being short-staffed is far less of an inconvenience should there be a food safety inspection (note: don't threaten to report your workplace for forcing you to work while ill). Then tell your supervisor that you're going to have to clock out to go see a doctor, and then tell them that you will bring in a doctor's note when you are cleared to return to your job.

If they still refuse, and threaten to fire you, leave, go to your doctor, and get that doctor's note anyway. If they do fire you, then you have documentation that you've been fired for refusing to handle food while ill. Now is the time to threaten to report your workplace to the health department... and then immediately start looking for a new job (even if they agree not to fire you).


Sadly, this is not uncommon. If you're specifically handling food, the state health department probably doesn't allow them to keep you at work. Check local laws. However, in the worst case you may still be terminated.

What to do is document the denial to go home, what time, and by whom. Keep the clinic records too.

In addition to going to higher management if your manager punishes you for leaving work, being at a grocery store deli, you might also be union-if so contact the union rep as well.


If you are handling food, your employer has a responsibility to not communicate any diseases that their employees may or may not have to their customers (this is part of the health code). If your employer does not "allow" you to leave, then you should simply walk out, go to a doctor, and get a doctor's note. If you receive any negative repercussions of this (not only firing, but also reduced hours, wages, negative performance evaluation), then you should, without notifying the company, notify the authorities immediately.

In addition, I would be inclined to voice-record the conversation with my manager when I ask them to leave (if voice recording without consent is legal where you live). That way, when you go to the authorities, you have proof that you left due to illness and that they did not allow you to leave, but you left on your own accord without permission.

As for why I would not notify the company about going to the authorities, I think such a step is unnecessary. The company will obviously and for good reason become defensive about being "ratted out" for a health code violation, and cause an uncomfortable situation for you, and there is no positive result for you for notifying them; they're not going to convince you (or outright stop you) from going to the authorities anyway, so they don't need advance warning. Furthermore, advance warning gives them time to change their practices pre-emptively so it looks like you are lying when the authorities come to inspect, and you don't want that.

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