I work in Texas, USA, as a salaried manager.

I recently had back surgery and had no issues at work. 5 months later, I need neck surgery (non work related.)

My employer is stating they will not grant me a leave of absence. I'm losing the use of my right hand so the surgery is an absolute must. What options do I have?

  • Well the short of it is that they can't deny you anything because slavery has been illegal for some time now. But they can, as mentioned in sleske's excellent answer, retaliate against you in various ways, some sadly legal. "What are my options?" is usually not a great question for a Q&A site like this since it's rather situational (you may have options none of us can think of because we don't know your company). Can you be more specific in what your goal or question is? A script to follow to talk to your manager? Whether you can or should go around him to HR?
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 23 '17 at 12:55
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    You need qualified employment advice, not random strangers on the internet. Personally, if surgery was an absolute must, I wouldn't have to think which option to take. Jobs are easier to get than new limbs. Apr 23 '17 at 12:55
  • @TheWanderingDevManager: While I qualified advice is always a good idea, I think workplace.SE can complement it. While the details will be company-specific, I still think this is a good question, and a lot can be said that is not strictly company-specific. Voting to reopen.
    – sleske
    Apr 24 '17 at 6:50
  • Contact your state Labor Department. They can guide you in what is and is not legal.
    – HLGEM
    Apr 24 '17 at 14:25

I'm losing the use of my right hand so the surgery is an absolute must.

I think you have already answered your question. If surgery is an absolute must, then you only option is to tell your employer just that. Go to your manager and tell them:

I need surgery to avoid losing the use of my right hand. I will be unable to work for about x weeks. How can we best handle that?

The key point is: You do not ask for leave. You just state the fact that you will not be able to work - no matter what your employer decides.

What happens now will depend on your employer. They may decide to fire you right away - in some jurisdictions you have protections against that, though I don't know about Texas. There is the Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but I don't know if it would help you (you could ask on http://law.stackexchange.com/ ).

However, a reasonable employer will probably not fire you right away. You are presumably valuable to them (otherwise why pay you), so they will try to find out if there is a way to keep you. Then you can start discussing options.

  • Maybe it will help if you schedule surgery for a quiet time.
  • Maybe you can train someone else to take over your duties during your absence.
  • Maybe you can transfer to a different project that starts later.
  • Or something else entirely...

Talk to your employer, and offer to make concessions where you can. Of course, it may turn out that they cannot possibly grant you the leave you need - then you will have to quit. Even in that case knowing this well in advance will help you to make the transition easier. But you won't know unless you ask.

  • 2
    The OP may have already used the FMLA leave for the earlier back surgery. Apr 23 '17 at 1:17
  • 2
    There is up to 12 weeks per year available...I don't think 1 surgery wouldn't have used up a full 12 weeks...
    – mutt
    Apr 23 '17 at 1:37
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    @mutt: Surgery alone will probably not take 12 weeks, but there may be a recovery period, or occupational rehabilitation afterwards - for a back injury, that could take months. But that's not the main question here anyway.
    – sleske
    Apr 23 '17 at 11:07
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    I'm guessing one of the major complications here is going to be health benefits. If he quits or gets fired (regardless of the legality), he loses health coverage, which he probably needs to pay for the surgery. Even if he CAN sue for wrongful dismissal, that just means he has a LEGAL battle on top of his surgery, which isn't exactly free in itself. Even if he wins a lawsuit and gets paid back later, he'll still need the money up front.
    – Steve-O
    Apr 23 '17 at 12:32
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    @Steve-O: True, which shows once again why tying health insurance to employment is a problematic idea. But that's how it is...
    – sleske
    Apr 24 '17 at 6:47

If you have vacation/sick time you can take that without telling them what it's for or you can tell them either way the company owes you that, so I'm guessing you are out of time in the bank. They also may allow leave without pay, but based on your comment that isn't an option either.

Short term disability, FMLA(Family Medical Leave Act) are your next two options. The company may or may not pay while out, but they cannot penalize you for taking it in either case. You need to go through the process of getting medical orders from the doctors indicating the condition and the need for the leave of absence. You can then fill out the paperwork necessary at your company to go through it. Legally in the US they cannot reject this, but must adhere to federal and state laws regarding this.

Short term disability specifics are related to company policy based on the insurance plan setup. You'll need to review your insurance policy through the company to find the specifics regarding that.

FMLA You can read about here: FMLA and you will also want to find any references to this in your company policy. It is alot rarer now for even large companies to pay FMLA leave, but they can't discriminate against you taking it and can't give your job away (permanently) while you are out. There are loop holes in it though, mostly involving individual response and finding "legal" methods to lash back at you. Be sure to be 100% sure on all your records and the time out and the time at work and also your job performance when on the job. If you have great job performance and the only thing against you is your FMLA time it's illegal to do anything regarding your employment based on that.

That really sucks to be unable to use an arm...


Is it your employer that is denying the leave, or just your manager?

Whatever the legal situation, it's hard to imagine any employer seriously asking an employee to choose between his job and the use of his hand. If they wanted you gone, it seems like it would be safer to simply fire you rather than wade into the muddy waters surrounding FMLA, ADA, and whatever state regulations there may be.

So I am thinking it is one neurotic or ill-trained manager in your chain of command. Consider discussing it with higher-ups, if such exist. Ideally, you want to inform the manager before going over his head, but you are about to lose this job anyway, so do it with or without his permission.

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    Don't be an idiot, @gnasher729 -- the OP might lose his job, but he won't lose his hand. Apr 23 '17 at 13:23
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    But that's exactly what his management demands - lose the use of your hand so you can work for us. Something that anywhere in Western Europe would be unimaginable.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 23 '17 at 15:35
  • Their demand is like summoning spirits from the vasty deep: will they come when you do call for them? Western Europe is notable for its lack of imagination, but that's no reason to move there. Apr 23 '17 at 16:10

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