A reader writes:
I adopted a dog a few years ago, and this is the first time I’ve had a pet since I’ve been a working professional. Recently my dog had major surgery, which is going to require extra care at home. One of my coworkers who has dogs and has worked for our company for over 30 years told me to use sick time if I needed to take time off to care for my dog, because that’s what she usually does.
I emailed my supervisor and asked if I could adjust my schedule to take a few hours off for the next few days and list it as one day of sick leave (we are exempt), which she approved. I was then talking to a different coworker, who seemed astonished that I was using sick leave and told me that sick leave was only for human family members and could not be used to care for pets. I checked our company’s written policy and it does say that sick leave can be used “to attend to or care for ill family members or other persons residing in your household who are ill.” I then emailed my supervisor again, referencing the policy and asking if my request was still ok. She responded that the schedule was fine but she should have clarified that I would have to use vacation time.
I plan to just use the vacation time and really have no interest in following up with either my boss or coworker again, but I’m wondering what is normal? Do employers normally let employees use sick time to care for pets?
Some employers do. Most don’t. All should.
If sick leave usage is causing a problem, an employer should address that. But I’d like them to stay out of who you consider a member of your family.