when an employee misses work with a self-inflicted illness

A reader writes:

An employee requested the weekend off for an upcoming fitness competition (body-building). Despite her not having enough vacation time banked for me to approve the request, I worked with her to arrange a switch so that she could work a different weekend instead. On the Thursday before the competition, she called in sick. I was supposed to be off that day, but I was trying to fill shifts (a different employee was put on medical leave) so I saw the update from staff at that location letting me know that she had called in sick and that they had had no luck filling her shift.

As per our collective agreement, a manager can request a doctor’s note for any absence due to illness, and the organization will reimburse the employee if there is a charge. I called the employee, but she did not answer. I left her a voicemail and sent a text requesting that she contact me as soon as possible and informing her that I would require a doctor’s note.

She sent me the following reply by text several hours later (along with a picture of the note I requested): “I am eating minimal calories and very little water. I have a huge migraine, no energy, and am having dizzy spells. I wasn’t expecting to get out of bed to have to get a note. It was a huge inconvenience. I am going back to bed and would appreciate not being bothered as I am sick and would like to sleep so I can feel better. I also attached a picture of the receipt so I can be reimbursed. Thank you!”

I see no difference between this and “I partied really hard last night and have a huge hangover. Getting out of bed to get a note was a huge inconvenience so I’d appreciate not being bothered again.”

This was not an unexpected illness; this was entirely self-inflicted and scheduled. She never discussed with me the possibility that she may be unable to work the days leading up to the competition. It was a huge inconvenience to our clients as we were not able to fill her shift. At a location where only two staff are working at a time, this meant we were down 50% of our staff for that day. Furthermore, I am astounded by the tone of entitlement and disrespect in her text message. How would you handle this situation? I appreciate any feedback you can offer.

Hmmm, yeah, the tone of her text was way off, particularly for a workplace that needs coverage when someone is out.

To be clear, stuff happens and managers should understand that. It’s possible that she didn’t realize that her pre-competition routine would leave her unable to work. But I’d cut her a lot more slack if she had said something like, “I’m having a bad reaction to my training regimen, which I hadn’t anticipated. I’m sorry I’m not able to come in.” Instead, though, her message comes across much more cavalierly and was borderline rude.

That said, asking for a doctor’s note for a one-day absence was way over the top. Frankly, I don’t think you should ask for a doctor’s note in 99% of situations, because you’re presumably employing adults and you don’t need to treat them like untrustworthy children — and because many of the things people stay home sick with don’t require a doctor’s visit, and it’s not reasonable to make someone drag themselves out of bed and take up a doctor’s time when there’s no medical need for it. And it’s particularly excessive to ask that for a one-day absence. So I strongly urge you to reconsider the whole doctor’s note thing in the future.

But back to your employee. It would be reasonable to say this to her when she’s back at work: “I went out of my way to arrange for you to have the weekend off, even though you didn’t have vacation time to cover it. I hope you understand that that was a favor because I wanted to be able to accommodate you. But if you were aware that your pre-competition routine could leave you unable to work beyond the days we’d already discussed, that’s something you should have raised with me earlier. In the future, if you’re putting yourself in a situation that’s likely to make you incapable of working, let’s talk about it ahead of time.”

Beyond that, though, I’d leave it alone, unless this employee has a pattern of unreliability or performance issues. If she does, then you’d want to get more aggressive about addressing the pattern … but if she doesn’t, the “hey, don’t do this again” conversation above is a sufficient response.

{ 386 comments… read them below }

  1. Cambridge Comma*

    It sounded like OP requested the doctor’s note because the timing made her suspect the veracity of the illness. This doesn’t seem as infantilizing as generally requiring a note for a single day’s sickness.

    1. Anon for this*

      Hm, I could be reading too much into this, but it sounded a bit like a punishment for “entitled” behavior to me.

      But if the employee has sick days left, she’s entitled to use them. If the company offers reimbursements for requested doctor appointments like this one, she’s entitled to ask for a reimbursement.

      1. Violet Fox*

        That and if the company expects doctor’s notes for one day illnesses then they really should pay for the doctor because that is really financially burdensome for well truthfully most people.

        1. Sadsack*

          Yes, and it is also ridiculous to make a sick employee trudge to the doctor for a note for being out for one or two days.

          1. Sadsack*

            Oops, I should add that, in hindsight, I don’t blame OP for requiring a note if she suspected that this employee planned or should have otherwise known that she’d end up having to be out sick this time, given her knowledge of the competition. Many places have rules about nor being able to use sick time immediately before or after vacation time. I wonder if OP has this policy.

            1. Oryx*

              Mine PCP keeps a certain number of same day appointments open. So even if I call on Tuesday for a Wednesday appointment, they’ll see she’s all booked up but if I call back Wednesday morning I may get something.

              1. Lia*

                Yes, this. My PCP could MAYBE get me in this week if I called today needing a note. I use a medicenter for things like sinus infections, etc.

            2. Joie De Vivre*

              Locally we have some walk-in clinics. We refer to them as “Doc in the box”. Usually staffed by a Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant.

            3. NewDoc*

              About 1/3 to 1/2 of our slots are same-day sick appointments…but pediatrics is a little different than adult medicine. However, I do know of many internist offices who reserve same-day sick slots, though perhaps not quite as many as peds.

        2. Tuckerman*

          Yes. And it also drives up the cost of healthcare and keeps people who really need to see a doctor from getting an appointment.

          1. Anon13*

            I took that as them reimbursing for the cost of the note only, as some doctors charge for a note on top of the cost for the doctor’s visit.

          2. Lola*

            They reimburse the out-of-pocket cost of the doctor — not the cost to the healthcare system (i.e. portion that is covered by insurance), therefore driving up the costs for everybody.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              Plus the costs of doctors’ time dealing with “I have a migraine, I know I should take painkillers, drink water and lie down in a darkened room and sleep it off, but my boss needs a note” when they could be dealing with real cases.

          3. Ruffingit*

            My issue wouldn’t even be the cost, it would be the incredible hassle of getting out of bed when I feel like death. Also, depending on how sick you are, driving to the doctor could be dangerous.

        3. Callie*

          I can’t even GET an appointment on one day’s notice unless I am severely ill or go to urgent care, and urgent care is expensive, even if the employer is reimbursing me. My insurance has a $95 “co insurance” for an urgent care visit.

        4. Anon for this one*

          That and if the company expects doctor’s notes for one day illnesses then they really should pay for the doctor because that is really financially burdensome for well truthfully most people.

          They do, according to the LW.

          1. Anon13*

            Are we sure the OP meant the doctor’s appointment? I took her comment to mean that the company would pay for the note (some doctors charge for a note, on top of any other charges).

            1. Morning Glory*

              Are you from a country outside of the U.S.? I see you posted this a couple of times but I’m not sure what it means.

              1. Aurion*

                I’m in Canada, and my provincial health coverage does not cover for doctor’s notes. Neither does any other extended health insurance I’ve ever been on. So if I were to get a doctor’s note, I need to pay out of pocket for it. (I’ve occasionally had doctors in walk-in clinics scribble something on a pad and that would suffice, but that was many years ago and I doubt I’d get away with that now. My regular doctor won’t do this.)

                In Canada, I don’t have to pay for a visit to a doctor (co-pays or whatnot), but I would have to pay for that note. Presumably in US, where people do have to pay for a doctor’s visit, some people might have to pay for the visit/office time and the note.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  My doc charges money to fill out forms for daycare, summer camp, etc. A simple “she came to us and was really sick” note, they might charge–or they might not. I think most likely not, but it could be $10.

              2. Jane D'oh!*

                My doc charges $5 for a simple form (one page) and per page for any additional pages, in addition to the cost of a visit. So, a school physical for sports clearance that is 3 pages long will cost you the visit fee, $5 for the first page, and $6 for the second and third pages.

                1. Kiki*

                  Nope all the doc I have been to make u pay for a visit not a note writing clinic and have to be seen to be given a note. Which cost a lot for being a bit sick

        5. sstabeler*

          from the letter, they DO reimburse the employee for the cost of seeing the doctor.

          However, one of the issues with requiring a doctor’s note is that it causes needless demand for doctor’s appointments, due to appointments booked purely so that people can get a doctor’s note saying that yes, Jimmy really is sick today, please let him have a sick day. That tends to both irritate the doctor, and is one of the reasons why it can be tricky to get a short-notice appointment, because people need to see the doctor for any ailment that makes them unable to work, when- in some cases- the only actual consequence is that there’s a risk of spreading said disease, either to the doctor themselves, or to other patients. (it doesn’t matter if it’s unlikely- it still increases the risk). That, and governments spend quite a bit of effort encouraging people NOT to go to the doctor for diseases that don’t really need more than bed rest, so it’s understandably irritating for them when employers require doctor’s notes, thus forcing people to take up a doctor’s time unnecessarily.

          I actually think- and i’m aware this may not be a popular decision- that there should be a small fine that employers must pay if they mandate an employee gets a doctor’s note for an illness that otherwise would not require a doctor’s visit. The idea would be that said fine can do towards the cost of providing more doctors, as well as discouraging the more petty sickness policies. (oh, and require PAID sick leave)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I agree that it sounds like that was her reason, but I’d argue it’s still not a great thing to do. If the employee was truly sick, it’s such a crappy thing to do to someone (insisting they get out of bed on day 1 of sickness to prove they’re sick). If the employee is lying, then there’s going to be a pattern (either already or coming in the future) and as long the OP is a vigilant manager, there will be plenty of ways to address it that don’t require doctor’s notes on day one of illness.

      1. Purest Green*

        Adding to this, I’ve been sick enough that I would have preferred to see a doctor but couldn’t physically get myself there. Employees in such circumstance would be penalized for a legitimate sickness if a note were required.

        1. Dorth Vader*

          ^^^ This. If I have a migraine that’s so bad I can’t work (and that’s a really bad one, since I work through migraines at least 3 days/month), I should not be driving anywhere. If I had a good record at a job and then my employer required me to get a drs note on the one time I call out for it, I’d be looking for a new employer. Also, personally, I never know what confluence of triggers will cause a super-strong migraine. Last week it was eye exam/stress/dehydration/too much booze/not enough healthy foods and I was knocked on my back for three days. LW, I’d argue for more compassion for your employee while not excusing her text, because that was way over the line.

          1. Anonamoose*

            “If I had a good record at a job and then my employer required me to get a drs note on the one time I call out for it, I’d be looking for a new employer. ” THIS.

            1. TootsNYC*

              but I’m not quite so certain this employee had a good record.
              Maybe it’s fine–but she did already ask for time off in a way that made a lot of work for her manager. i think she needed to take that into consideration when she called in sick, and make a bigger effort to contact her manager.

              1. ConantheLibrarian*

                Agreed. The OP said that this employee didn’t have enough vacation to cover the competition. She could be new, she could’ve had something catastrophic happen, or she could be abusing her leave and taking off a lot. If it was the latter and it was a pattern, I’d probably react in the same way–not to be vindictive, but to curb the behavior.

          2. Catalyst*

            I completely agree, I can go weeks without migraines and then for no apparent reason get one that is so bad I can’t get out of bed. When you are in this state, especially if you are taking medication to try to get rid of it, you should absolutely not be driving yourself to the doctor.

            The employee may not have known that this pre-competition diet would lead to a migraine. There is no mention of whether this is their first competition or not (if it was how would she know?).

          3. cncx*

            this actually happened to me and i started my job search the day i started feeling better. busted my ass doing overtime, working 60 and 70 hours a week for a law firm. Most of my overtime was covering for a coworker who called in at least once a week and usually more. I went home one night at seven pm, was answering emails on my blackberry, told my boss and hr around nine pm i was running a fever and had just passed out in the shower and so i would not be in the next day becuase i was so sick, and HR asked for a doctors’ note. Not even day one, but literally as a reply to the email saying i was calling in. After not having called in sick EVER and to add insult to injury after covering for this lady who called in all the darn time and never got asked for a note.

        2. ceiswyn*

          I was thinking that as well. I had a horrible gastric illness earlier this year; I would have LOVED to see a doctor, but there was just no way I could leave the house. And nobody would have thanked me if I had!

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Two years ago I was so sick and so weak they my friend’s husband had to come carry me into the car and drive me to urgent care.

            There’s no way I would have been able to get myself there.

        3. katamia*

          This. At a previous job I had to lie and take a different type of leave one day because that job required a doctor’s note, and I couldn’t get to a doctor. I could barely stand and was in a city where I didn’t speak the local language. I’m not even sure how I would have FOUND a doctor that day (much less one who spoke one of the languages I speak) or figured out how the insurance I got through my job worked. I’m not a huge fan of lying, but I don’t regret that lie one bit.

        4. TrainerGirl*

          So true. I had a hard hitting flu-like illness a few weeks ago, and it took 45 minutes of pep talks just to get out of bed to go to the kitchen. If I’d had to go to the doctor to get a note, I wouldn’t have made it. The last time I had to get a doctor’s note for work was 2009, when I got H1N1, and my company required that we take at least 7 days off. The note was to ensure that no one claimed swine flu to get a vacation.

      2. Ruby*

        One of things that happened at my work place (which really puts the fun in dysfunctional) is that a former co-worker used medical certificates to take 283 days off in twelve months. The way the company had written their employee agreement meant that they couldn’t sack him over it until he stuffed up and didn’t provide one. He wasn’t sick, just didn’t want to deal with his manager. So they can really bite the company too if the wording of the policy on them isn’t careful.

        1. Jennifer Needs to Pet a Thneed*

          Math error? A five-day week gives you 260 working days in a year. A six-day week is still only 312 days. Did this person really take off 283 days in a year? Wow.

          1. Ruby*

            No, 283. We work 12 days on, 2 days off and people were keeping a tally (his attendance had been spotty). He would disappear for 1 to 2 weeks and then reappear for a day or two. Wash and repeat.

      3. acmx*

        Requesting a doctor’s note is part of their collective bargaining agreement. It may not have been nice or convenient but it’s probably best for the manager to do it. The contract language for this probably protects the union member.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      It sounded like OP requested the doctor’s note because the timing made her suspect the veracity of the illness.

      That’s what I thought too.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Ditto. In fact, it made me remember that my school had a rule: if you are out sick from school, you cannot participate in any extracurricular activity that evening.

        It makes sense, in that if you feel that crappy, or are contagious, you shouldn’t come to the event because of the sickness. But as a kid I always thought it was intended to keep people from skipping school and hoping to still get to do the fun stuff.

        I know that if I’d been the employee in this situation, I’d have been worried that it would look like me using sick leave to get an extra day for the competition, and I’ve had been in touch w/ the boss who worked so hard to get me the time off to say, “I’m so sorry–honest, I’m not just faking it!”

        1. BPT*

          That was basically my parents’ rule – if you’re too sick to go to school, you’re too sick to do anything but sleep, watch tv, or read.

          1. plain_jane*

            Watching tv was not on that list for my parents. Of course I was a huge reader, so it wasn’t that big an imposition.

            1. Bookworm*

              I mean, I guess I understand they’re trying to discourage you from feigning illness…but hell, I’ve known people sick enough to be in the hospital and still been ‘well’ enough to watch TV.

              1. Melissa*

                Drifting a bit off topic I guess but I like to keep a tv on sometimes just for a bit of background noise (without necessarily “watching” it), whereas reading is often too much effort when I’m really sick and definitely a bad idea if I have a migraine with aura. Thankfully my parents weren’t too strict with tv when I was a kid.

                1. JessaB*

                  Exactly. I know when I was really sick as a kid it was okay to park on the sofa. The TV would be on, but ringing or yelling for mom to change channels all day would not be on. So whatever channel had the best stuff on it was what I got (this was pre TV remotes.) Usually mom set up a snack table that had water or juice and tissues and stuff like that. Also a hand bell in case it got really bad or I sicked up or something. But certainly not for “mom come change the TV.”

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, I probably would have sent that text directly to the OP too just so she would know the whole thing was legit.

        3. Whats In A Name*

          Right, so timing sometimes sucks. There is a legit chance her bad reaction to the training was unexpected and she was really not able to come to work without putting herself or others in danger. But the text was so far out of line I’m finding a hard time landing on the side of the employee here.

          My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly the weekend before I had scheduled a 12-day vacation out of the country so instead of working Mon-Tues-Wed before leaving I had to take those days off for bereavement taking my total days out to 3 full weeks.

          I was beyond apologetic to my boss, to an extent I think made her uncomfortable. To me, that is where this employee needed to come from.

      2. Joseph*

        Yeah, my immediate thought upon reading the first paragraph was “wait, are we sure she’s actually sick?”.
        After all, let’s imagine what the story would look like if there *wasn’t* a note involved here:
        1.) Employee is out of vacation and has to beg for an accommodation to get Friday/Saturday off. OP switches things around as a favor.
        2.) Employee takes Thursday out ‘sick’ – the day right before this surprise vacation.
        3.) In taking the sick day, Employee tells the staff at the location but does NOT bother to directly inform her OP (who I’m assuming is her manager/GM/something).
        4.) OP calls Employee and goes to voice mail; OP texts Employee with no immediate response.

        1. Anon13*

          It’s interesting how two people can read the same note so differently! The way I see it:

          1) The employee wasn’t out of vacation, she just hadn’t banked enough, and she simply asked if there was any way she could switch shifts. Depending on the type of work and the specific work environment, it’s possible that this type of asking to switch is common and the employee didn’t need to beg.
          2) The time off was not a surprise in any way. It sounds like the employee asked enough in advance, she just simply didn’t have the time banked.
          3) The employee followed the correct procedure of letting on-site staff know that she would need to take a sick day. This could include an on-site manager. OP never mentioned that the employee’s way of calling in sick was out of line, so I’m not sure why you would think it was.
          4) It’s not at all unusual to not answer phone calls or texts when sick. Frankly, I think it’s odd that anyone would expect a sick person to answer the phone or immediately reply to a text.

          1. Bookworm*

            I’m confused here what the difference is between ‘banked’ and ‘out’. Either way, she asked for vacation days she didn’t have available, right?

            1. CoffeeLover*

              I think it’s a system of accrual. You get 15days of vacation a year for example, but you accumulate it throughout the year. So in June you only technically have 7.5 days of vacation available to you. Most places I’ve worked didn’t really care about that distinction though. You could take the full 15 with the understanding that if you quit at that point, you would owe the company vacation pay.

              As a side note, I think employers are too strict with granting time off. I know it’s a lot more difficult in a shift schedule kind of place, but life comes up. Even if it’s not an emergency, sometimes you just WANT to take some time to do some cool thing that you hadn’t planned for. Accommodating people in these situations shouldn’t be some huge favour. For good employees, it should be par for the course that you accommodate additional time off if you can.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t see anything to different in the two scenarios. The reality is that most people do NOT respond to texts as they come in when they are sick. Some ignore the phone, others either mute it or even shut it off. Why is that so suspicious? It would actually be very surprising that someone would be answering texts if they have a massive migraine or are having dizzy spells.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yeah, when I have migraines, or the first day of the flu, everything is turned off. And when I’ve got a gastric thing, I’m totally not bringing my phone into the bathroom with me!

            (Of course I call in, but after that, it’s all off.)

    4. INTP*

      I think this is the case but I also don’t think that retroactively requiring notes is a good policy in any case. The employee should have requested the day off in this case but generally if employees are not using excessive numbers of sick days with suspicious timing you should leave them alone about it.

    5. Elle*

      Am I the only one wondering how she planned on competing in a body building competition when she was too ill to work on the prior Thursday to these self-inflicted issues (hunger/dehydration)? I presume they were not going to improve by the weekend. However, I know absolutely nothing about body building, so it’s highly possible I am misreading this situation.

      1. BPT*

        I think that’s very common in body building, correct? Like one of the main points is to be dehydrated so that you drop a lot of water weight. From what I understand it’s about what you look like, what muscles are visible, etc, not actually lifting weights during the competition. (Although I could be wrong)

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          This. I have friends who do the fitness competitions and the last week is grueling.

      2. Anonamoose*

        Models do the same thing. Hunger down for 48 hrs and take a bunch of diuretics to lose inches fast. In body building, this also helps define muscle mass to get an ‘edge’ over other competitors.

      3. Meg*

        Her self-inflicted issues were directly related to the training regimen. It was because of the regimen that she was ill. The low calorie and minimal water intake is what fitness models/bodybuilders do before competitions to cut water weight.

          1. feminazgul*

            It’s the absolute norm in bodybuilding, MMA and many other arenas. And it’s very unhealthy, but these systems don’t push back on it and it’s seen as desirable.

    6. Honeybee*

      Even so, doctor’s notes don’t prove anything. All they prove is that you went to a doctor’s office; many doctors will write notes just to prove that you were there but they don’t say anything about your illness. And plenty of people are sick and don’t need to visit the doctor.

    7. Vicki*

      “This doesn’t seem as infantilizing as generally requiring a note for a single day’s sickness.”

      Um, no. It seems even more infantilizing because it has an undertone of suspicion and lack of trust.

  2. AnotherAlison*

    The employee was incredibly rude with her response, but I tend to agree with Alison. It would have been better just to take it on face value that she was sick.

    I haven’t trained for bodybuilding, but running training has done things to me that I never anticipated (exp. a standard 8 mile training run where I got dehydrated and ended up in bed the rest of the day). I also find that when you put your body to the limits, you can get “legitimately” sick with colds and flu after the event. I see this as a different type of self-inflicted than getting drunk, honestly. Maybe she should have known it was going to happen, but in my example, I’ve done plenty of 8 mile training runs that didn’t put me in bed all day.

    I also called in last week unexpectedly, even though I knew I was having a procedure done. I had a basal cell carcinoma removed, and I thought it was going to be pretty tame outpatient procedure and I’d be a couple hours late, but I had a huge bandage on my face and more swelling than expected.

    1. The IT Manager*

      But this is not “I over trained and got sick the next day.”

      The employee’s “illness” could have been resolved by drinking and eating. She chose to prioritize the preparations for her competition instead of coming into work. At the moment when she woke up feeling terrible, she could have hydrated and eaten and then would have been able to make it to the office. She’s suffering for her sport, but she’s also making the office and her co-worker suffer or her sport too.

      1. Tsk*

        Can I just say that there are times where this kind of regimen works just fine and other times where it can induce a migraine.

        Do you understand what a migraine is? It can be debilitating and once it has started it is TOO LATE to reverse course. I suffer from chronic migraines and I know skipping meals can trigger a severe one – but once I skip a meal the damage has been done. I can’t just chug a bottle of water, eat a steak, and waltz on into work… I would end of vomiting the rest of the day, barely able to look at a screen, and probably cry in the washroom. If only we could tell pregnant women that it was their choice to get pregnant and they should just eat/hydrate immediately after severe morning sickness and go into work like a champ.

        Despite what caused the migraine attack it happened and you can’t really illegitimatize an illness because of the context of what caused it.

        I was once training for a 5km run – it was my first one ever. The race was Saturday so I didn’t need time off of work but work knew about the event. Well Friday morning I woke up very sick and had to call into work – hindsight shows that my nerves and training regimen caused me to push myself too hard and my body could not take it. I got treated like I just took the day off to prep for the race, I had to go to the emergency room with on/off vomiting and diarrhea to get a note for my boss.

        1. Mookie*

          This. You can’t plan for or mitigate against every migraine. Even innocuous and healthy behavior can inadvertently trigger one.

        2. Caity*

          Most people who have migraines have a good idea of what their triggers are though. Could be specific like mine being limes, nitrates, and Twix bars, but extreme hunger and dehydration tend to be across the board. If these really are migraines then she knew what could happen and chose to do it anyway. And she chose to do it after others made accommodations for her. I don’t agree with doctor’s note requirements but that text had absolutely the wrong tone and I think it warrants a conversation.

          1. Misc*

            Or she rarely/never get migraines and didn’t expect it – I’ve had two in my whole life – one this year, one when I was a kid; my sibling gets them practically monthly, guess which one of us didn’t make plans in advance to accommodate for a migraine?

          2. Scarlet*

            Agree on the tone of the text, but I have to point out that I’ve been suffering for migraines for years and, although I do have a general idea of what might trigger them, it definitely not 100% predictable. Sometimes they come out of the blue and I have no idea what triggered them. Sometimes a usual trigger doesn’t trigger anything.
            So many general factors can come into play like stress, tiredness, etc.

        3. L*

          my sister has always had really severe migraines ever since she was very young. After witnessing her agony, I understand what a migraine is. I’ve only had them as part of a larger illness (think swine flu, mono) but don’t get them regularly. So i have every sympathy for migraine sufferers. I have noticed however, lots of people throw around the term casually when they have a headache, whatever grade it is. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic to people who suffer bad headaches, but aren’t in the territory of migraines, but I’ve seem friends/coworkers walk around talking about how bad their migraine is. Then they pop a single advil and they’re fine. my point is that people overuse the word

      2. KR*

        I get that the employee might have prioritized training over her work, but I also think that people can’t always predict when they’re going to be sick. And as someone who frequently gets migraines and also easily gets dehydrated or forgets to eat enough, it’s not always as easy to just drink enough water, eat, and then get going because at that point the reaction has already started and you’re already sick which makes eating and drinking without vomiting very hard and very slowgoing.

      3. Observer*

        That’s actually probably not true. Once the migraine hits, hydrating and eating are not going to get you to a point where you can do much, in time to get to work. In fact, I would not be surprised if the migraine affected her performance negatively in the competition.

      4. Paige*

        There is also 100 percent no reason for the employer to have this knowledge. None. The employee did not have to volunteer this information. The employee DID get the doctor’s note. I don’t know. The employer seems so over the top.

      5. Lily in NYC*

        So what? What an employee chooses to do with her free time is her business. And if the person has sick leave, I don’t see the issue. What if it were an employee with an eating disorder? One could argue that’s a choice as well. Policing this kind of thing is a slippery slope and I don’t like it.

        1. Electric Hedgehog*

          Trouble is, in this case the employee was out of sick leave – which makes it entirely reasonable for the employer to require a doctor’s note IMO. Normally, it’s a total waste of time and money, but if they’re out of accrued leave AND a sub can’t be found, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the employer to make certain the illness is genuine so they know whether they need to take disciplinary action against an employee.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            We don’t actually know that she is out of sick leave. She is out vacation time, which may or may not be the same thing.

          2. Observer*

            Except that requiring a doctor’s note does not do anything to verify an illness. A good doctor can often “rule in” illness, but it’s almost impossible for a doctor to rule out illness in one visit.

        2. ConantheLibrarian*

          I agree in theory, but I don’t think it’s fair to the other employees. It’s very stressful to work only half-staffed. If it just happens once, then no big deal, but if it’s a pattern, then I think the manager owes it to the other employees to do something about it.

      6. Gigi*

        I work in the health and fitness industry — I’ve followed a competition-style training program myself out of personal interest, but several of my coworkers (and my sister) have properly competed in bodybuilding competitions and it is a HUGE time, physical, emotional, and financial investment. Especially in the last ‘peak week’ when everything you put in your mouth is measured, weighed, and timed to exact proportions so you can look as good as possible for a few hours during your comp. It’s not about health, it’s not about sustainability, it’s not about physical performance — it’s entirely about aesthetics.

        When you’re that lean and deliberately depleting your glycogen stores and dehydrating yourself, any extra water or food really does have a visible effect to a scrutinising eye. So ultimately, it would come down to whether she prioritises her work commitments or her comp prep — and honestly, if I had spent 12+ weeks micromanaging my diet and exercise, spending (easily) hundreds of dollars on entry fees, coaching, supplements, bikinis, etc, and explaining to Nanna that no, I really can’t eat your amazing lasagna tonight … then I understand why she might choose to stick to her prep in the last crucial days, instead of downing a Gatorade to give herself enough energy to get to work.

        That said, I did find her tone rather snotty and entitled and that’s what I would take issue with. Whether she’s competed before or is following a new prep program would affect my opinion on whether she should have anticipated she’d need the extra day off — different people respond to these sorts of programs in different ways. Obviously, my industry would be more likely to be sympathetic to this particular “self-inflicted illness” though, so it may be colouring my judgement.

        1. sstabeler*

          in that case, she should probably have skipped this particular competition, and attended one where she could take vacation for the peak week as well as the competition itself.

    2. Artemesia*

      No one else thinks she should be fired? I might not fire her today but I would be looking for reasons to get rid of someone this rude and entitled; next missed shift, she would be out.

      1. Electric Hedgehog*

        No, I’m with you – at the very least a stern talking to about responsibilities and professionalism.

      2. Shannon*

        No, I’m with you. Unless the employee turned her attitude around after a conversation using Alison’s wording, she’d be gone.

      3. insert witty name here*

        Assuming this is the first time this happened, and given the fact that the employee was suffering from a migraine, no, I wouldn’t fire her. She was sick. Stuff happens. I agree with Allison on how to approach.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Exactly. And if I was sick as a dog with a migraine, told to go get a doctor’s note like I’m five (which also includes making me get into a car to drive somewhere when my head feels like it’s about to explode), made to pay to go get said note with money I may or may not have on me right that minute, I too probably would have sounded like that in my text. You’re basically calling me a liar by telling me to go get a note.*

          *And the employee may well have been lying, we don’t know, but starting off with the assumption that she is is probably not going to make for a pleasant conversation.

      4. Purr purr purr*

        I’d be really interested to hear it from the employee’s side. From our perspective, the employee was rude and entitled. Of course, the other side could be that she picks up a lot of shifts when other people are ill or unavailable, is a ‘Yes’ person and the one time she couldn’t come in, she effectively gets punished for it and maybe she was rude because she expected her good track record before that would count for something. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened.

      5. Paige*

        Oh the OP is hostile to the employee and looking to fire her despite her getting the doctor’s note proving she was indeed ill. The employee shouldn’t have volunteered information beyond that to the OP, who was and is holding the doctor-approved illness against her. I wouldn’t want to work for the OP.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, that seems like a really big leap from what’s in the letter! I don’t see anything indicating she’s looking for a reason to fire the person or that she’s hostile to her — the opposite, really, since she went out of her way to help her get days off despite the employee not having vacation time to cover it.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, and I think the last part is why the OP is so annoyed with the employee. The employee knew she was going to be participating in this bodybuilding event, yet used up all of her vacation time prior and came back asking for more, possibly knowing this was going to short staff her department. Then OP went out of her way to rearrange the schedule so the employee can have the time off anyway, only for the employee to take a day off without informing her directly about it, leaving the office short staffed again. I can also understand where OP’s annoyance is coming from here.

            1. Anon13*

              Am I the only one reading this as the employee not having worked there long enough to have accrued vacation time, rather than her using all of her vacation time? Is there a line that I’m missing?

              1. Observer*

                I don’t think it really makes a difference. She didn’t have the time, and was really rude about the unexpected day off.

              2. Rabunzel*

                I can see this interpretation, but imo that makes it worse because then there’s less of a track record for the employee to excuse the rudeness and the extra effort OP went through.

        2. hbc*

          There’s no such thing as a “doctor-approved illness.” There was a doctor-*confirmed* illness. A doctor will confirm that you showed up with scurvy whether it’s because your body isn’t processing vitamins correctly or because you decided you could live on Mr. Pibb and Hershey bars. An employer isn’t required to treat those both the same, especially if you decide to switch to Dr. Pepper and Cadbury and still keep calling in sick.

    3. INTP*

      On the other hand, I’ve gotten incredibly hung over from 3 beers with no way to anticipate that would happen because sometimes bodies are just weird. I think the frequency is the issue here, one or two days a year out due to self inflicted but unpredictable circumstances shouldn’t be a big deal. All of us probably do that, even if it’s more indirect than a hangover, like skimping on sleep and getting a cold. If it is predictable, like your bachelorette party is on a weeknight or you always get sick after a marathon or you’ll be in b d hungry and dehydrated, then request the days off in advance, and don’t do the activity or find a way to avoid being sick if you can’t get them.

    4. L*

      she’s not training though…the ‘diet’ is typical of body building competitions to drop weight, make the muscles pop etc. I’ve never done this before and even i know that it definitely doesn’t make you feel good. I think that’s different than going on a training run and blowing out an ankle or getting a migraine. Those are unintended side effects that you wouldn’t be able to anticipate. Her reaction to her pre competition diet could have been COMPLETELY anticipated. and if she wasn’t ready for that risk, she didn’t do her research and probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

  3. Sharon*

    This is tangential but this caught my eye: ““I am eating minimal calories and very little water. I have a huge migraine, no energy, and am having dizzy spells. ” I can see not eating so that you keep your weight down for a competition weigh-in, but not drinking water sounds like a horrible idea to me. No wonder she has a migraine and dizzy spells! Can another reader who is into fitness competitions sanity check me on this? It can’t possibly be a healthy practice!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t participate in these competitions, but one of my team members does. Typically she’s on minimal calories, high protein for the calories she does eat, and TONS of water–she keeps a gallon jug at her desk and refills it at least once at work. Doesn’t make sense to me that OP’s employee isn’t drinking water.

      1. INTP*

        This is something people do right before competitions to dehydrate themselves so their muscles are more visible. It’s not part of training, just immediately pre-competition (and some competitors might not do it at all because it’s obviously not good for your body).

    2. MoinMoin*

      Not a healthy practice, but a pretty common one from my understanding. I remember a friend of mine doing all sorts of crazy stuff to dehydrate himself as much as possible to make weight for wrestling competitions. Wrapping himself in plastic and cycling in the sauna kind of stuff. As someone who passes out easily, I don’t know how he did it.

    3. A girl is no one*

      It’s done. You want to be as muscular as possible, while still BARELY making your weigh class. See my comment below. (I’m a powerlifter, once lost 10 lbs in one day to make my class, it wasn’t that big a deal. Gatorade after weigh-in and I was fine)

    4. Terra*

      It’s not healthy. However, this is a none technique to fool body composition analyzers/body fat measurement tools that use an electrical pulse to do the measuring. The tool works on the idea that fat is more conductive than muscle but since water is also conductive purposefully dehydrating yourself can give the appearance of having less body fat than someone who is well hydrated.

    5. LBK*

      Dehydration increases vascularity, making your veins pop out and contributing to the “muscly” look. Assuming there’s an aesthetic aspect of the competition, decreasing water intake would be part of that.

      1. KarenD*

        Bodybuilding is all aesthetic, and what michelenyc said is correct – bodybuilders try to dehydrate themselves in the hours before competition. There are all kinds of fun recipes out there and even some commercial products.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I was under the impression that a bodybuilding contest is purely aesthetic and doesn’t involve actual working out on the day of the competition, but other comments made it sound like she’d need to be lifting weights and such at the contest (hence questioning if it was wise to purposely weaken herself), so I was taking my cues from that.

    6. michelenyc*

      If she is bodybuilding it is my understanding that they limit/dehydrate themselves to make their muscles look cut.

    7. Migraine Sufferer*

      I get migraines and typically am too sick to eat or drink anything for the duration. Could that be part of this? Do we know for sure that the competition was the reason for the calorie and water restriction?

      1. BPT*

        I mean considering that her competition was the next day…and that calorie and water restriction are the usual things to do right before a bodybuilding competition, it’s not a huge leap. I mean sure, maybe she didn’t really care about the competition and was planning on eating and drinking normally and then the day before the competition just happened to have a migraine which made her switch to a low calorie/water restricted diet…but when you hear hoof beats think horses, not zebras.

      2. aeldest*

        Suspicious timing aside, it seems unlikely to me that someone who is too sick to eat or drink would describe it as “eating minimal calories.” A much more natural wording in that situation would be something like “I’ve got a migraine and have been unable to eat all day” or something. Plus she mentioned the migraine after the restricted eating/water, which implies it was caused by that.

        1. Anon for this one*

          She’s not too sick to eat or drink. She’s sick because she stopped eating and drinking to prepare for a competition.

    8. AdAgencyChick*

      I get it. I don’t ever want to go there myself, but I know enough people who go to extremes to make weight for a competition that it doesn’t seem insane to me.

      I also get wanting to be really dedicated to your avocation. I’m in a performing group for which I burn several vacation days a year for rehearsals that happen during working hours. Sometimes these rehearsals are sprung on us relatively late in the game, and I want to be there, but then it’s harder to plan around at work on short notice.

      I think the key in this case is the employee’s attitude. I’m hoping the rudeness of her text was just because she was hangry, and that she will wise up and realize that she needs to apologize to OP. The doctor’s note policy is silly (although it sounds like, from the OP’s letter, the policy is not her idea, so the employee shouldn’t be blaming her for it), but that doesn’t excuse the attitude given that OP’s *scheduled* time off was already time she was not entitled to take, and this was an extra problem she caused for her boss.

    9. Elsajeni*

      It’s not super healthy, no, but it’s a pretty common way to cut weight before a competition — typically you would drink lots of water, as The Other Dawn said, for a couple of weeks leading up to the competition, then drastically cut your water intake the day before so that you’re carrying as little “water weight” as possible (in other words, super dehydrated) when you have to weigh in. For weightlifting or wrestling, you’d then immediately chug a bunch of Gatorade or Pedialyte to rehydrate yourself, so you actually have the energy to get through the event; bodybuilders might wait until after the competition to rehydrate, since being dehydrated can make your muscles look more defined.

    10. paul*

      That’s typical for a day or so before a bodybuilding competition; you get better striations and definitions. Not healthy at all, but comps aren’t about health.

    11. Blue Anne*

      It’s pretty standard for bodybuilding competitions. The extreme definition and vascularity you see in competition photos is a result of dehydration on top of the low bodyfat percentage.

    12. Brett*

      Sometimes to make a specific weight class, you cut water weight for 24-48 hours before the weigh-in. It is dangerous (which is why college and high school wrestling have taken measures to restrict it), but it is a common practice.
      The amount dropped can be pretty dramatic. I used to cut from ~130 to 118 in 2 days back when college wrestling had day before weigh-ins (giving you time to rehydrate partly and recover before competition).

  4. Jesmlet*

    The tone is a much bigger problem than the fact that the illness was caused by her own actions. It’s not too far off from someone who catches a cold because they don’t wash their hands enough. It’s not like she intentionally made herself feel like crap.

    As for the tone itself, it’s probably partially who she is, partially how crappy she was feeling, and partially a reaction to your unusual request. Asking someone for a doctor’s note for one day out sick is just too much. If they’re really sick, then you just made them feel worse and if they’re not, I’m sure they could find some way to fake a doctor’s note anyway. It’s a waste of time and makes good employees feel bad and bad employees feel nothing.

    1. the_scientist*

      I once witnessed someone who was trying to make weight for a wrestling match by spending a few hours in the sauna in several layers of sweatpants have a near-complete break with reality. He was hallucinating and extremely aggressive and ended up having to be restrained by police and taken to the hospital by police car, for the safety of himself and others.

      So, I don’t doubt that the employee’s judgement is probably lacking from hunger and dehydration as she gets so close to her competition date. I think Alison’s suggested response is great because it acknowledges that she was likely feeling off, but that this wasn’t really acceptable and that her tone/approach needs work.

      1. shep*

        Yes, this. I got dangerously into bikini-style bodybuilding about a year ago without guidance aside from my own manic–but often conflicting–research. I never hallucinated or got aggressive (I’m a tiny girl who would rather expend my frustrated energy rolling my eyes than hulking out), but perpetual exhaustion, clinical-level obsession over my measurements, and the beginnings of some pretty worrisome disordered eating began creeping into my life.

        Luckily, I’ve broken that cycle, but I still follow bikini competitors and many are very open about the physical AND psychological tolls competing takes on a person. (For example, even I admit that although I’m much happier now that I’m not on constant deficit macros, I struggle with being heavier than I want.)

        That of course doesn’t completely absolve this employee of her tone, but I can definitely see the unintended consequence of needing an additional day off, and can see the origin of said tone (despite the fact that there are FAR more tactful ways, as OP even says, to say essentially the same thing and not be inflammatory).

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      Yep, absolutely. If we’re going to be mad that her routine caused her to be sick, we may as well be mad at people who don’t wash their hands and get the flu or people who drink soda and develop diabetes. It’s not a judgment call a manager should make. Either you trust your employee or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’ll have bigger problems to address than a suspicious sick day.

      The tone is crappy, but I’d lean toward letting that go since it’s hard to be pleasant when you’re sick.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Totally agree. If I was debilitated and had to go get a doctor’s note to prove I was sick, my tone would be much, much harsher. I’d also start looking for a new job immediately (which may be the OP’s goal, tbh).

      2. RKB*

        Right? I have Crohn’s in remission. Sometimes I still get bowel symptoms. I had to call out a few weeks ago – and I did so 36 hours in advance so they could get coverage – and they asked for a doctors note. I’m still mad.

        1. esra (also a Canadian)*

          Oh Crohn’s. I like to imagine a snarky doctor’s note that says: YEP. Still no cure for Crohn’s. Just like last time you requested a note.

          1. Jane D'oh!*

            THIS. There should be a rubber-stamp form for this sort of thing, really!

            I’m reminded of having to get a doctor’s note every single time my gram got called for jury duty–I think it was three times in a year. I swear it was because they thought she was faking. Her dementia isn’t going to improve, people! Stop hassling her!

            1. L*

              …but to be fair Crohn’s is very different than a purposeful dehydration, calorie-deficit induced migraine…

      3. BPT*

        But on the other hand, it’s not a license to skip work when you don’t have the days when you know how it’s going to affect you. If this was her first competition OR the first time that she had gotten sick from her routine, then fine. But you know for next time. You don’t let your manager cover for you when you don’t have days to take off, and then call in sick without warning next time when you KNOW what a low calorie/dehydration diet is going to do to you. It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to know that not eating or drinking isn’t going to make you feel well. Once you figure it out once, then you need to talk to your manager next time to make sure that coverage is ensured when you have to take off that extra day.

        1. Jesmlet*

          To that point, there are plenty of people who do manage to go about their day to day on a very low calorie diet. I don’t think you can automatically assume that you won’t be able to work doing that. But that all depends on whether the employee has done this before or not and if it affected them that way the last time she did it.

      4. LavaLamp*

        PSA of the day, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The body decides to eat the pancreas and no amount of healthy eating stops that.

        1. Princess Carolyn*

          I knew Type 1 can’t be self-inflicted, but I didn’t realize it was considered autoimmune! Good to know.

        2. Em*

          Nice to see this on National Diabetes Day! Ridiculous how such a prevalent disease is still so widely misunderstood.

      5. Candi*

        Ahhh… Please don’t say that about diabetes.

        Type 1 diabetes occurs when the Isles of Langerhans fail. It can occur from an autoimmune reaction, cancer, or other things out of control of the person.

        I have a good friend who struggles with PCOS. One of the oh-so-fun effects of this condition is increased weight. This put her in a high risk category for prediabetes for years. A few years ago, an infection on her foot that refused to heal heralded 5 weeks in hospital and the onset of full diabetes.

        This is a woman who spent years eating healthy, cooking with quality ingredients at home, and exercising until foot problems* made the risk of crippling higher then the results. Her only indulgences were occasional chocolates sent to her by her fiance (and I admired her self control on only eating one a day!) and a break with Tim Tams and tea. (She hails from Oz.)

        So some indulge and damage their bodies’ ability to handle insulin and glucose -but others are victims of their own bodies farking up.

        *I found the discussion in a past open thread about pretty shoes for those with foot issues. Passed it and the links within right on to my friend. She loves her shoes and misses her dressy heels.

    3. designbot*

      yeah I was just scrolling down to say similar. I can understand when it’s such a direct instance how a manager doesn’t feel great about that, but I don’t like the slippery slope that puts you on. Are you going to deny time off to a lung cancer patient because of their smoking? Or a diabetic with a flareup because you don’t think they managed their eating right? Someone with mono because you don’t approve of who they’ve been kissing? The role of a manager is not to judge what illness is a valid one.

      1. BPT*

        In the short term/day of, no it’s not a manager’s job to judge the illness. If I have a hangover and am vomiting, I’m not going to be able to make it into work whether it’s my fault or not.

        BUT you can treat it differently than other illnesses if there is a pattern. If you’re hungover and calling out sick every Friday because you’re hungover, that’s going to be treated differently (and should) than someone who has chemo every Friday or has a flareup of a chronic condition or something. FMLA isn’t going to protect being hungover, so in that way it definitely judges a difference in the types of illness.

        Usually on this blog, the answer is to just judge how the behavior is affecting work, and not the cause behind it. But a person who misses every Friday because of chemo and a person who misses every Friday because they’re hungover might have the same impact on work. You can bet I’m going to work with the person who has chemo over the person who is constantly hungover.

        1. designbot*

          But while you may see a clear boundary between these issues, there are plenty of illnesses that are caused by, exacerbated by, or just generally associated with choices people make, whether those choices be drinking, nutrition-related, exercise related (either too much/extreme or not enough). Heck, I’m currently battling an illness where about 50% of instances are directly caused by alcohol abuse. I’ve missed weeks of work and require continuing schedule flexibility as I go to doctors appointment after doctors appointment, and I could be re-hospitalized any time. One of the things I was terrified of as I lay in the hospital was my employer finding out what illness it was and assuming that it was caused by alcohol, as many people (including doctors) do. As I said, I understand the impulse to judge and treat one illness as more valid than another, but the examples you use are pretty extreme, and there’s a lot of middle ground that makes me say, Nope, don’t want employers making that call.

    4. Maxwell Edison*

      The tone is bad, but I’m prone to migraines and am the first to admit that I’m not exactly a bundle of sweetness and light when I’m experiencing one (if you need validation, ask my family).

      1. Scarlet*

        Yes, same here. My first reaction when I read the text was “wow, she’s out of line”, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I might have responded the same way if I had been asked to go out and get a doctor’s note for a 1 day absence when already suffering from a migraine.

    5. INTP*

      I think it’s a bit worse than a cold just because it was presumably predictable that she’d be doing this on a specific day and not be able to work that day. She should have asked for the day in advance in that case. But I could be misinterpreting the OP’s rendition of the employee’s words, to me it sounded like she planned to be in bed all day and wasn’t caught by surprise by how bad she felt.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I don’t know if you can assume that from the info we have. If I wake up and feel like crap and then call out of work, I immediately plan on staying in bed all day. It’s not necessarily the case that the night before she was like, I’m going to not eat or drink water, feel like crap tomorrow and then call out. Just as likely the severity caught her by surprise and this was her reaction to it.

    6. Pommette*


      Everyone engages in activities that could (but hopefully won’t!) result in illness. We might draw different lines as to what kinds of risk, and how much of it, we are willing to accept, but ultimately, we are making the same kind of choice.

      I spent the weekend with my usually-infectious nephew (kindergarten is a petri dish!), knowing that I might catch the flu or some other temporarily incapacitating bug. Someone else might go for a run, knowing that it could exacerbate rather than assuage their back problems. Someone else might try a new dish without checking all the ingredients to avoid migraine triggers… And the OP’s employee fasted to prepare for a competition that involves weigh-ins. In the end, we’re all making choices that could lead to illness, while hoping to stay healthy.

  5. JMegan*

    Hm, I don’t know. I generally agree with you about doctor’s notes being unnecessary, but something is fishy here. The employee was already out of vacation days for the year, and she called in sick the day before her scheduled (extra) vacation?

    Given what I know about body building competitions (which basically amounts to “people dehydrate themselves and restrict their calories for a couple of days before”), it does sound reasonable that the employee was unable to come to work. Self-inflicted and deliberate, for sure, but she probably wouldn’t have been much use if she had come in under those circumstances. And her tone was definitely out of line, no argument there.

    I don’t know if requesting a doctor’s note was the right thing to do here, but I definitely agree that OP should be suspicious, and start asking herself some questions about this employee’s work ethic and availability to do the job.

    1. eplawyer*

      I would have been suspicious too. If this is not the person’s first competition, she had to know the effects her training regiment would have on her and should have raised it sooner.

      Something tells me the shift switching was not accomplished as easily as the LW made it seem. Like LW worked with her, while the person complained about not just having the time off.

  6. TotesMaGoats*

    I can actually understand why the OP asked for a doctor’s note. You’ve moved the schedule to get her the weekend off and then all of a sudden she can’t come in on Thursday. Yep. I understand.

    I would also say that most people doing body building know what their training regimen will do to them. I guess maybe the first time you don’t know but if you’ve got any experience, you understand exactly what you are doing to your body. So, I feel like the OP would be giving her too much benefit of the doubt on this one.

    A conversation is in order, IMO, because of the tone of her text. I wouldn’t necessarily touch the other stuff but the tone isn’t borderline rude, it is rude.

    1. Turtlewings*

      Yeah, the most outrageous part of all of this is the employee’s snotty response. You can debate all the rest of it — whether the employee had the right to call in sick, whether the doctor’s note was going overboard, etc. — but acting so offended that your supervisor (RIGHTFULLY) smelled a rat regarding your sick day? Even if you feel she had some right to be annoyed, it’s neither smart nor professional to talk to your boss that way.

      1. Amy the Rev*

        I don’t see how she “rightfully smelled a rat”, it sounds like the employee was indeed too ill to come to work, therefore she was telling the truth about being too ill to come to work…. an example of “rightfully smelling a rat” might be if the employee was actually using that day to travel to the competition location, or get her spray-tan done, or go to a last-minute fitting for her comp suit.

        1. Violet Fox*

          I honestly would not expect someone suffering from a migraine to have perfect tone in their texts for calling it sick.

          1. Purr purr purr*

            Me neither. When I get a migraine, I definitely have personality changes. They make me extremely irritable and quick to anger. I doubt I would reply patiently to a request for a doctor’s note.

            1. Shazbot*

              Having personally roared every profanity in the book at someone who was trying to scold me for “pretending to be ill” while I had a migraine, and then passed out cold on the floor from the pain backlash, yes, having a migraine can cause some *intense* reactions to things.

        2. Turtlewings*

          I say “rightfully” because the sick day was directly connected to preparing for the bodybuilding meet. Admittedly, she really was too ill to work, and that’s not the same thing as calling in sick in order to get a spray tan, etc. But it’s definitely something that wouldn’t have happened if not for the bodybuilding meet, and probably should have been anticipated. (It’s not really a stretch to think that denying yourself food and water could result in not feeling well.)

          Again, all this — legitimacy of the sick day, supervisor’s reaction, etc. — I can see multiple sides to. The employee’s reaction, though, I really cannot. She called in sick the day before taking PTO; of *course* that’s going to provoke questions from her supervisor wondering if she’s misusing the time. You can argue about whether she was, but the question itself should not have been offensive.

          1. Callietwo*

            “She called in sick the day before taking PTO; of *course* that’s going to provoke questions from her supervisor wondering if she’s misusing the time. You can argue about whether she was, but the question itself should not have been offensive.”

            Particularly given that the PTO was time she was not entitled to at all and accommodations were made specifically for her!

            She’d be on warning that she’s to be at work when she’s scheduled, she’s not to request special treatment or extra days and if she does request them, they will be summarily denied.

            Unknown in all this is the employee’s work ethic outside of this event, which would determine whether more formal steps would need to be taken or whether it could be written as a one-off episode and move on from there.

            1. Liz2*

              This is exactly why I have sat through work and thrown up in a bathroom because my migraine kicked in on a Friday afternoon- I didn’t want it to look like I was just trying to get more of a weekend.

              The wording wasn’t appropriate and it was a sucky situation, both can be addressed. But LIFE happens, this is what work/life balance means- that when life really does happen, your work can be reasonably flexible.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            This is what I was thinking, she took sick time adjacent to vacation time. Some employers feel this is an absolute no-no. With these type of thinking calling in sick is okay OR taking vacation time is okay but not together on consecutive days.

            But I don’t see OP mentioning this as a problem, or at least a formal problem. It may have rattled OP’s cage for various reasons.

            I needed more bereavement time at one job. I could not use sick time. I could use up personal time or vacation days. If I called in sick it would have been met with suspicion. That was just SOP for this particular company.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I don’t find anything outrageous (or snotty) about the employee’s response. She’s pushing back against a ludicrous policy.

        If you really think someone is abusing the sick leave policy, then have a talk to them when they get back. As a manager, you should know your team well enough to know if they’re gaming the system or not. If they are, fix it. If they aren’t, treat them like adults.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is another good point about the problem with doctor’s notes — a doctor’s note doesn’t prove anything. You could be 100% healthy and still get a doctor’s note if you had to, just by complaining of unverifiable symptoms (headache, sore throat, achiness, etc.) It’s literally nothing more than an attempt to inconvenience employees in order to keep sick day usage down.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        I agree. When I was in college my boyfriends mom was a nurse. I had a professor that required a doctor’s note if I had to miss a day of class. I had to miss twice because I had severe stomach issues that nothing but time would heal…so the doctor she worked for squeezed me in, confirmed it wasn’t anything that could be treated by antibiotics and sent me on my way.

      3. Spondee*

        Some of my professors required doctor’s notes, but student health refused to give them. So you’d miss a class because you were sick, then go to student health to collect their standard note that said “we don’t give doctor’s notes” and hand that to your professor. Waste of everyone’s time.

          1. Zoethor2*

            My undergrad did this too. Looking back it seems like maybe it was a representation of a passive aggressive war between the student health personnel/leadership and the academic staff about the issue of whether students should have to provide notes for absences.

      4. One of the Sarahs*

        Yes, the doctor’s note will just say “had a migraine” without going into why (and piss off the doctor no end, too)

    2. Anon 2*

      I agree. Typically, I’m against doctor’s notes for any sort of illness. But, this whole thing smells fishy. And to be honest, if the employee had reacted better, I suspect that in the future a doctor’s note wouldn’t be requested in this instance (as it appears to be something that is at the discretion of the manager).

      1. Honeybee*

        But a doctor’s note wouldn’t prove anything other than that she 1) went to the doctor or 2) knows a doctor who can write her a note.

    3. Candi*

      By itself, a doctor’s note doesn’t mean much.

      As documentation and as a small part of a whole pattern -it can have quite a bit of meaning.

      That requires subtlety and attention to detail and the whole picture… which some managers aren’t very good at.

  7. A girl is no one*

    When I have to do a cut before a meet weigh-in, I just ask for additional days off. It can be pretty hard on you physically to cut 10 or 12 lbs in a day. (you dehydrated, there’s actually coaching protocols for this. really). That said, sounds like this is a meet she should have passed on, since she didn’t have enough time in the bank to take the needed days off. Basically, she’s more committed to figure comps (?) than her job.

    1. designbot*

      That’s what I think it really boils down to. Manager went out of their way to accommodate something the employee didn’t really have the days for and wound up getting even more inconvenience than they signed up for. Manager is perfectly reasonable to say, given that this did not work out well, we will not be able to re-arrange schedules for you in the future to make similar accommodations.

  8. AMT*

    I’m 100% in agreement with Alison based on the fact that the employee *knew* she’d likely feel ill and unable to work, but committed to doing so anyway.

    However, I’m not sure I like the implication that a “self-inflicted” illness should be treated differently than a “normal” illness. Though she shouldn’t have called out at the last minute, I think it would have been okay for her to schedule a sick day for this in the same way that you’d schedule one for a medical appointment. I could imagine scheduling a sick day for, say, the day after a marathon, or after trying a new medication that you know might make you feel loopy, or maybe the day after moving apartments when you know your back will hurt. Then again, I might be totally off-base, though–what does everyone else think? (For context, “mental health days” are a generally accepted norm in my field.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s totally fine to schedule sick days for that kind of thing. In this case, the issue is that she didn’t schedule it so it was more disruptive (and also, because it was unplanned, that means that she just sprung it on the OP, who didn’t have a chance to say no).

    2. Scorpio*

      I agree about what OP said in terms of giving yourself a hangover by drinking too much being “self-inflicted.” However, many excuses could be perceived as “self-inflicted”, especially when they are related to mental illness (ie, being weak because of an eating disorder, having insomnia caused by anxiety, someone getting held up by their OCD or ADHD)…but those are very real excuses. We have someone who is routinely late because of their ADHD. We work around it. I’ve had to take a day to rest because I was up all night with anxiety and can’t get out of bed. I’m more likely to work through having a cold than having a panic attack. I probably take 3 sick days a year and 2 of them are usually for mental health. And when you work in a high-stress environment, your mental health is just as important – if not more important – as your physical health.

    3. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I’m also kind of bothered by “self-inflicted” illness. There are a lot of injuries and illnesses that you can find a way to blame someone for, and nothing good’s going to come of that.

      Of course, if this employee knew she wouldn’t be able to work, she should have planned for it better.

      1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

        Yep. A couple months ago I called in sick because of heat exhaustion. Maybe I could have avoided it if I’d drunk more water and spent the day hanging out in an air-conditioned public place (I don’t have an AC) but I’d never had heat exhaustion before and wasn’t expecting it.

        We overestimate our ability to deal with things all the time. Shit happens.

        I’ve also seen awful small business owners get furious at employees for calling in sick with food poisoning because “it wasn’t my fault you ate something bad” or contagious illnesses because “you should have taken care of yourself/been more careful.” Let’s not fuel this garbage.

        1. Violet Fox*

          I sprained my ankle really badly last winter clearing snow off my car to go to work. Could also see that be considered self-inflicted because people could argue that I “should have been more careful”.

          For the record my workplace was lovely, reasonable, and very considerate about it.

          1. AMT*

            I pitched forward off my bike and ended up in the emergency room last year. Fortunately, my boss at the time was a triathlete and completely understood. I did have to sit through his bicycle accident stories again, though!

      2. Epsilon Delta*

        I think the problem isn’t so much that it’s self-inflicted, but rather that (1) there’s an element of choice/planning and (2) there is a clear, obvious consequence to that choice. With drinking, people generally know their limits, so getting a hangover is very much within their control (unlike some of the other examples like anxiety, eating disorders, etc).

        In the OP’s case, the employee chose to limit her calories/water, and most people realize they won’t be feeling well when they do that. If this was her first time training for a competition, I can see why she might not have anticipated the severity of the side effects. Next time she should have a plan for how she will handle the day before the competition, whether it’s a sick day or a different training regimen or something else.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Right. If this employee shows repeatedly that they will be taking unscheduled leave more than other employees, it doesn’t matter if the OP or we think they should have been able to predict it, that makes them more of a burden on the business and their fellow employees, and that is something concrete that should be addressed.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          It could very well be that cutting weight weakened her to the point she got sick with something else. Maybe she has cut weight without getting sick several times and thought that would be the case this time as well.

        3. INTP*

          Yes, exactly. This was a predictable and direct consequence of an entirely optional behavior, unless she is competing in these as part of some eating disorder or OCD, which isn’t unheard of but I see no reason to suspect here. I think a reasonable person can handle using the concept of “self-inflicted” in a case like this without extending it to mental illness and complications related to obesity and things like that. You can control getting dehydrated because you deliberately chose not to eat or drink on a specific day, you can’t control when you have a panic attack or diabetic emergency.

      3. One of the Sarahs*

        I’m especially bothered by “self-inflicted” illness because it’s a slippery slope – but also, if an employer is going to go down that route, will they give leniency/extra pay/extra sick days for “illnesses inflicted by others”? (eg a colleague came in with the ‘flu, and gave it to me, workers getting run-down because they’ve been asked to pull double shifts, headaches from being in long meetings.) I’m betting not!

    4. Manders*

      It’s possible that this illness was genuinely something that surprised the employee, either because she’s new to this kind of training or because it hit her in a way that she wasn’t expecting. It sounds like taking time off at this place is enough of an ordeal that if she’d realized in advance that she needed to make arrangements for that day, she would have planned for this earlier.

      I share your dislike of treating a “self-inflicted” illness differently. A lot of my illnesses are arguably self-inflicted–because I hung out with a friend who was sick when I could have cancelled, because I didn’t take care of my stress and ended up messing up my immune system, because I didn’t notice a migraine coming on early enough to take the pills that would stop it in its tracks–but the best course of treatment for those things is still the same as if they’d happened for any other reason.

      1. Brogrammer*

        The truism about hindsight being 20/20 applies here – it’s easy for an outside observer to say, after the fact, that the sick person could have done something differently to prevent the illness.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        What makes you think it’s an ordeal to get time off? The letter says the employee ran out of days, so the OP helped her out by swapping shifts around.

        1. Manders*

          It wasn’t an ordeal for the employee, but it sounds like it was a big hassle for the OP and the location the employee works at. A thoughtful employee would have known that calling out sick would be a big inconvenience for her coworkers (of course, it’s also possible that this employee didn’t think about that or didn’t care).

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Had to chime in with you and Anon for this about trying to treat “self-inflicted” illnesses differently. Would that include any ill effects from smoking? Drinking? Obesity? (I am NOT saying that these are “self-inflicted”, just that it might be perceived as such by people trying to make a distinction.)

        The point is that you can assign blame for almost anything if you try hard enough, but you’ll likely not be fair or objective about it. It’s best to concentrate on the more immediate issue of the employee’s tone, and then to also judge based on the past quantitative use of scheduled and unscheduled leave whether this employee deserves that flexibility in the future.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, I agree. If we’re drawing a line differentiating them, where is that line? Am I to blame if I break a bone doing an extreme sport? What if it had happened because I was just out running and my dog tripped me up with her leash?

        2. Observer*

          Actually, there are people who act like any disease that might be related to how you is “self inflicted”. It gets pretty disgusting, too.

    5. OhBehave*

      Scheduling a sick day after a medical procedure or an extreme athletic event seems reasonable.

      OP and employee spoke and agreed to arrangements about her scheduled absence. OP was not contacted by employee when she called in sick and only found this out from staff at the other location. You would think that the employee, having made special arrangements for the days off with OP, would have also communicated this needed sick day with her. OP had no way to say ‘no’ to the employee because she found out after the fact.

      The employee’s rude response would have put my hackles up too. It’s hard for me to believe that she had no idea what this kind of training regime would do to her body. It’s rare that you train for these kinds of things alone. It’s just a bit too convenient to come up sick right before the negotiated ‘vacation’.

    6. INTP*

      I agree that it would be fine to schedule time off for this one, but I think it would be fair to make it a vacation day rather than a sick day. It’s not the same as a doctor’s appointment at all, it’s not something she’s doing to protect or improve her health. It’s for an optional hobby that happens to have physical side effects. It’s kind of like scheduling a sick day because you plan to have a hangover.

  9. Bend & Snap*

    Haven’t we all had a self-inflicted illness at some point? Hangover, staying up too late, ate the wrong food, even just need a mental health day, whatever? It’s part of life. As long as it isn’t a habit, I don’t see what the big deal is.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s because she was snotty about it, and because it sounds like she probably knew there was a good chance she’d need the day off and didn’t bother to ask for it ahead of it (despite the OP going out of her way to arrange for her to get the weekend off, and despite knowing they’d need to arrange last-minute coverage).

      1. A girl is no one*

        If it’s her first comp, she may not have known how bad it would affect her. It doesn’t bother me that much, but some people really get woozy. Her coach should probably have helped her more.

          1. A girl is no one*

            Agreed. Apologies seem to be a vestige of a lost age. I long for a simpler, more heroic age. Like, the 80s. :)

              1. A girl is no one*

                Now that song is stuck in my head and there is water in my nose from a snort-laugh-choke on water. Thanks. :)

              2. You Don't Know Me*

                Thank you. Thank you so much. Imagine me singing It’s a Small World at you really loudly. ;-)

      2. Purr purr purr*

        I have migraines and end up with personality changes as a result. They make me extremely irritable and impatient and while I’m aware of the effect of the migraine, it’s still hard to regulate my behaviour when I’m suffering from one, especially given the level of pain migraines bring. The employee might not have been deliberately ‘snotty’ but may instead be suffering from the psychological consequences of her migraine. Of course, maybe she was deliberately snotty and is always like that. We’re only seeing one interpretation of the story.

        1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

          Ditto. I also often have only hazy memory at best from when the aura starts til the pain clears. I have said terrible things to husband,and he has to remind me of them later,since I do *not* remember.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I married into a family of diabetics and have several diabetic friends. All of them got nasty when their blood sugar was low.

        Interesting to me, but OP’s description of this employee sounded just like my husband when he was in low blood sugar- stomach ache, migraine, not able to eat, etc. And yep, he could get very testy. Since I was married to him I saw the patterns so it helped me to understand where his remarks were coming from.
        (I did tell him eventually and he made more of an effort to think before he spoke when he was in crisis. This problem went away.)

        My point is, given the condition the employee was in, I would almost expect a sharp or biting response based on what I have seen around me.

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        I think the kindest interpretation of that would be one of those situations where you over-commit yourself, run yourself ragged, and need a day off to get back to normal. It’s self-inflicted in the sense that you could prevent it by saying no to things you know you don’t have the bandwidth to do.

        So, that wouldn’t cover all mental health days by any stretch, but I suspect B&S was talking about something like that, not “self-inflicted” depression or something.

        1. ceiswyn*

          …isn’t recovering from being run ragged exactly what having holiday time is for?

          I’d never actually seen the term ‘mental health day’ used in that context, so that’s a new one on me. If I need a mental health day it’s because my mental illness is acting up, and I’ve been having a panic attack since 4am or spent half the night convincing myself to live. The people I know use it in the same way.

          I’m slightly concerned now that people are seeing ‘mental health day’ and judging me, not realising that I’m genuinely ill.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            As someone who has suffered from and recovered from depression, ‘being run ragged’ is a medical condition that needs to be addressed with healthy stress management techniques. Including taking a day off for self-care if necessary.

            It’s semantics to me, though. We don’t get any sick days here, just a block of PTO.

          2. Princess Carolyn*

            Interesting you should say that. I have always heard “mental health day” used to mean a one-off day when you’re just stressed out and need to take some time to preserve your mental health — not necessarily a day when you’re specifically suffering from symptoms of a known or suspected mental health issue.

            The other day I told my supervisor I couldn’t decide between using my day off to travel or just using it as a “mental health day,” and she seemed concerned, which surprised me. Guess she uses the term the way you do.

            FWIW, the days I take off due to depression are categorized as regular-old sick days in my mind.

    2. CA Admin*

      I don’t know about you, but I come into work for self-inflicted illnesses. Hung over? My fault, I’ll suffer through it. No sleep? My fault, I’ll suffer through it. Food poisoning is the one exception because it’s not what I’d consider self-inflicted (you have to eat and it’s not a logical conclusion from eating a meal, it happens only rarely unlike a hangover from too much alcohol).

      Mental health days I make sure to schedule ahead with my backup person–I don’t just take one and leave her in the lurch.

      1. chocolate lover*

        I’d dispute the “No sleep, my fault.” As other people have already mentioned in other comments, lack of sleep can be related to anxiety, insomnia, or any variety of things that actually aren’t the person’s “fault.”

        1. CA Admin*

          Trust me, I know. I have anxiety-related insomnia and will sometimes not get sleep, but feel ok coming in late or calling in sick on those days.

          When I say “no sleep, my fault” I’m talking about in the context of drinking/partying/etc. when I choose not to go to bed, not when I’m trying to sleep, but can’t. I think it’s pretty clear that one of those is self-inflicted and the other is not.

          1. Observer*

            That’s all good and fine if you are ABLE to come in and work, even “suffering”. I’ve seen some doozy hangovers- coming it the day after simply wouldn’t have been an option. On the other hand, some people don’t seem to get hungover at all, regardless of how drunk they get.

            Migraines can be that way – sometimes “suffering through it” is sometime not even an option.

      2. AW*

        Depends on the job too though. A cashier moving slower because they’re hung over is better than no cashier at all but a construction worker who’s hung over is a huge safety hazard. (I’m assuming the cashier didn’t drive themselves to work.)

        In other jobs, sitting in your chair barely getting work done can also be worse than calling in. Is it fair to charge a client for 8 hours of time if you were only function for 2 hours of that? What happens when you run out of billable time?

        1. Sunflower*

          I agree with this. Sick days are to be used when you don’t feel productive enough to come to work. If you’re in a job where coverage isn’t an issue(obviously for OP that’s not the case) it doesn’t really matter if you’re hungover or come down with a bug- you’re still most likely not working at the productivity level they want you at.

      3. Manders*

        I’ve found that when I have a really bad migraine or insomnia, I can put my butt in the chair, but I can’t actually get any of my work done. If it’s really bad, I might not be able to focus my eyes on the computer screen. If you’re paid hourly, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to drag yourself in if there’s no productive task you can actually do.

        1. CA Admin*

          I’d argue that neither of those are self-inflicted. If you can fix it or prevent it by making better choices (eating food, drinking water, not drinking alcohol to excess), that’s something different altogether.

          I get migraines. I have anxiety-induced insomnia. Those are not self-inflicted illnesses. They’re not contagious, but they’re not self-inflicted. I’ll take time off for those in a way that I wouldn’t if I just stayed out too late or drank too much.

          1. Shazbot*

            I used to think that way. Then I grew up and realized I have a lot less control over how little things affect me, and that trying to draw lines like that was only a product of me trying to establish control over the uncontrollable.

      4. Moonsaults*

        With my jobs, I have the same mentality. I only left once with a hangover and that was when I went so OTT that I was puking well into the day after I knew it should have subsided. I was honest with my boss and he laughed at me, thankfully we had that kind of relationship and a one time “I really cannot be here right now.” was not an issue to him.

        Shit happens is what I boil it down to, it’s really about the over-all pattern. I’ve given a lot of wiggle room to people who have ended up with crazy things happening and other times when I just know they’re unreliable and poorly managing their life, I am less accommodating.

        1. PlainJane*

          Your last point nails it. I’m way more likely to cut someone slack if they are reliable and productive normally, regardless of why they want the time off. We don’t really know enough about the OP’s employee to know whether she is normally a good worker who overestimated her ability to handle her training regimen or if she routinely calls out and doesn’t manage her life well. A former friend used to tell everyone all the time about how she got fired for calling out when her child was sick. Well, yeah, that was technically true, but she omitted the part where she called out and/or showed up late extremely frequently and performed poorly when she was at work. Patterns and reputation matter so much.

          1. Candi*

            It’s like that one post in the archives where the OP was on the phone with her three kids all the time. She was talking to them on her break and lunch -she estimated that took care of about 90% of the calls- but was also on the phone (“maybe”) two or three times in between arriving at work and break, break and lunch, etc.

            One time she got a call that was a real emergency. Knocked out tooth bleeding level. Her boss was not happy when that OP interrupted their conversation to take the call.

            Thing is, if she hadn’t been on the phone all the time, I doubt there would have been as much of a problem.

            (Someone who might have been that OP commented way down in the comments. I couldn’t believe part of her reply was “I’m sorry you don’t love your children”. Also, what does that do to your bill?)

      5. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m kind of on the fence about this. I’m a choral singer, and I used to get horrible migraines the day after every concert because I didn’t drink enough water the day before (I was terrified of needing to use the bathroom during a 2-hour concert). A couple of times, I took two days off for the concert (dress rehearsal day and concert day), then ended up going home early the day after. Was it my fault? Sure it was. However, I was completely, utterly, totally useless with those migraines. I was also in horrible pain. My migraines are accompanied by mild facial paralysis, so conference calls were tough too. I was better off at home. I have learned, to be sure. I got over that fear, and now I drink a ton of water all the time. Those post-concert migraines are a thing of the past.

        On the other hand, I didn’t have to worry about coverage. So I’m wondering if this is the employee’s first competition. Should we cut her some slack? Not for that note! But in general, yeah. We all do dumb things before we put two and two together.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I called in earlier this year for something in my free time, too. I am a volunteer character for sick kids, and sometimes wear a big fuzzy mascot suit. One night a kid in a wheelchair hugged me unexpectedly hard, and I wrenched my neck back trying not to fall on her. I couldn’t move my head the next day (kinda vital for driving) and called in while I regained mobility.

          Of course, since that’s the most guilt-inducing story ever, they actually made me a Get Well Soon card.

      6. Anon this time*

        I’m with you on the hangovers and no sleep (of the “I stayed up all night playing video games” variety), but when I say I took a mental health day, I mean it in the same way as if it was a physical health day. I generally manage my depression and anxiety well, but I’ve had times when I literally couldn’t get out of bed without crying. Physically I’m fine, but I literally can’t work (I work with the public). It’s not just “I’m stressed and need a day to veg.” I know some people do mean it in that way, and that’s fine by me as long as, like you said, you do it in a way that doesn’t leave anyone in the lurch, but when I take a mental health day, I’m legitimately ill. I do feel guilty taking a sick day over it, but I have to remind myself that mental illness IS illness and take care of myself.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I used mental health day as a catchall for burnout, have too much on the plate, etc. I agree that a day where you’re grappling with anxiety/depression/other things is an actual sick day. I struggle with those too and sometimes have to take a sick day to get my meds adjusted and get back on track. I certainly wasn’t trying to make light of mental health.

          1. anonderella*

            I took your comment with the best intentions, so it didn’t rattle me too much, but I did bristle.
            Here’s why : “I used mental health day as a catchall (*keyword : catchall*) for burnout, have too much on the plate, etc.” and “I certainly wasn’t trying to make light of mental health.” are somewhat incongruous.
            I know you aren’t actually trying to judge anyone or make any blanket statements, you’re just painting a picture of your own perspective; but using such a charged term (mental health ) can be misleading of your point – to me, a lot of this lies in the misconceptions around normal vs abnormal psychology, but I digress.

            Also, what results/leads up to a mental health day for you is not the same for everyone (I’m betting you know this already : ) ), my point being that you can’t point at ANY one symptom and say whether it falls in the realm of shoulda-seen-this-coming or not. So, what looks to you (or even feels to you at the time) like normal burnout could be a symptom of something more serious.

            just was my thoughts at your original comment, and on this one. I know you don’t mean anything offensive, I just hope my different perspective might be considered.

            1. Bend & Snap*

              Listen, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and PTSD. I don’t need an explanation of what mental health means.

              Mental health day = a pretty widely accepted term for needing to take a day to recharge. Nothing more.

              1. ceiswyn*

                Apparently that meaning of the term is not as widely accepted as you assumed. Now we have all learned something.

        2. AJS*

          I think people are conflating two separate things under the term “mental health day:” real mental health issues / their side effects (anxiety, depression, insomnia etc.), and the feeling of “I just can’t face this crap today, I’m staying home.”

          1. Anon for this one*

            I agree. If you’re staying home because of depression or anxiety or another mental health issue, I’d call that a sick day. If you’re just feeling stressed or sad or annoyed and don’t want to be at work, that’s what I would call a “mental health day.”

          2. Mirax*

            I’m a little wary of trying to determine which mental health issues are “real” because they’re so hard to quantify. Like, ok, that’s where you draw your line, but in my personal experience, waking up to that “I just can’t face this crap today” feeling is usually what makes me realize that I’m having a full-blown anxiety attack or that my downslide accelerated into full depression (both of which are things I tend to try to power through until I suddenly discover It’s Too Late, the Ol Depresh is Already Here).

      7. Princess Carolyn*

        My personal policy has always been to call in sick for a truly debilitating hangover, but I’m required to feel guilty about it. If you’re too sick to work, you’re too sick to work. It’s only an issue if you’re repeatedly getting too drunk and calling in for a hangover. Granted, it’s been several years since my last debilitating hangover on a weekday, but I’m not going to work if I’m puking everywhere, even if it’s my fault that I’m puking everywhere.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          Yup. One day I was like “you did this to yourself, you go to work”. Then I had to pull over to puke on the side of the interstate. Yup. Went back home, called off and never got drunk on a school night again.

        2. Tara R.*

          I’ve only missed work with a hangover once. I went out on Saturday, had three drinks, came home tipsy but feeling fine, and then spent /five hours/ Sunday throwing up. I was less hungover the one time I actually blacked out drinking. By the end of Sunday I was dehydrated and weak and could barely get off the floor, so I called in. Still can’t decide if I should feel bad about that or not…

      8. Lily in NYC*

        Hmmm, I guess. It really depends. I’ve never missed work for a hangover, but I’ve missed work for breaking my thumb after doing something very, very stupid. Who gets to decide what’s a valid reason?

    3. hbc*

      I think there’s a lot of grey here. Frequency counts, but so does the degree of choice and predictability and reasonability.

      For example, if you injure your hand playing Five Finger Fillet or breaking cement blocks, you might get a bunch of side eye, but most people wouldn’t begrudge you your days off and rehab. Do it another couple of times, and you need to start booking that time off in advance and start getting some push back. Another example: if you have Meniere’s that you can manage perfectly with limited salt intake, technically any time off was you not being careful, but people are going to be understanding that it’s hard to never slip up and have some chips occasionally.

      In this case, I think this was pretty predictable (maybe not the migraine, but being woozy when dehydrated and starving is foreseeable), but would cut her some slack if this is the first time. But she’d better book the prep day the next time or be prepared to lose her job.

  10. Lily in NYC*

    I think it is ridiculous to require doctor’s notes unless it’s from an employee who has already proven they can’t be trusted. Am I supposed to go to the doctor every time I have a stomach virus or cold? Yes, the employee’s text wasn’t very polite, but when you treat people like children, don’t be surprised when they respond like a pissed off teenager.

    1. Hope*

      When I was teaching (only a couple years ago), it was standard practice at every school I ever taught at. If you were going to be out sick, you had to get a doctor’s note, period, end of story. At one school, you ALSO had to call around to find your sub. Not an easy thing to do when you wake up with tonsils the size of golf balls b/c you’ve come down with strep. Combine it with the loss of teaching time, and that’s why most teachers say it’s easier to just go in and teach while feeling like death rather than call out sick.

      It’s amazing just how much school administrations treat their teachers/employees like children. One of the myriad reasons I’m no longer teaching.

      1. Jinx*

        Yeah, my mom is a high school teacher and she’s worked for multiple administrations that do this. It sucks, especially since she’s the kind of person who gives 120% and won’t admit she’s sick until she literally can’t get out of bed. She took two days for a horrible cold this year and her employer called her both days to ask if she was “really” sick or just slacking. It’s depressing.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          My parents were high school teachers and my dad used to make the same point – how it was easier and less stressful to just go to work sick than to make all your own coverage arrangements. Said that made them and their colleagues all, what, beningerers? Hyperchondriacs?

          I’ve known workplaces that required a note before they’d let you come back to work if you’d been out sick. Seems much more sensible and people-focused to me. If I’m your boss and you’re out sick, I want to know you’re well before you come back and start breathing on colleagues, putting your hands on doorknobs, etc.

        2. Jane D'oh!*

          Yup, several friends of mine tell horror stories about being chewed out because the schools are so short on teachers/subs and classes end up sitting in the auditorium en masse. As if the teacher should be able to will away the flu because the education system is broken and nobody wants to teach anymore.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        Wow. And having to find your own sub makes it that much worse! I know they probably think it’s a deterrent to having people call in sick when they aren’t really sick, but it’s just so paternalistic and offensive.

        1. Honeybee*

          I don’t understand why workplaces like this don’t take the tack “If we treat our employees well, maybe they will appreciate us so much that they will work hard and act appropriately rather than abuse the privileges?”

    2. Triceratops*


      I think requiring a doctor’s note for a one-day absence (or at all, except in the rarest of cases) is worse than the employee’s brusque text.

    3. Candi*

      I think the issue here is the LW was dealing with some combination of suspicion this employee wasn’t behaving trustworthily, and those above her wanting the note -since I sincerely doubt someone of the LW’s level and skill set was involved in the union contract negotiations.

      (I’d like to know more about the contract. Did the union reps fail to push back because there were more important hills to die on, or because they have that mentality that the peons are like children?)

      On the teacher front, our district’s policy is the teacher calls their school, and the school calls for a sub.

      ….which doesn’t help if the person answering the phones doesn’t check messages left outside “business hours”.

      She’s not there this year.

  11. Looey*

    I know of a number of companies that require a doctor’s note if you take a sick day either the day before or after a scheduled vacation or holiday to stop people from taking an unapproved extra day. If you didn’t get a note, I think they took 2 days off your sick leave instead of the one.

    1. Liane*

      Every place I have worked for–even professional hourly jobs–required that you work your scheduled days/shifts right before and right after the holiday in order to receive the holiday pay. That was usually enough to get *most* people to come in. And the ones that care about the holiday pay enough to come in? I was happier they weren’t there because they were the same ones who didn’t care about the job enough to be useful.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      Wow, that’s harsh. It’s basically is saying “we don’t trust our employees further than we can throw them, and will assume the worst, always” – and the stupid thing is, it doesn’t even solve the problem.

      Someone who wants that unapproved extra day can still plan for it, fake a migraine and get to the doctor for a note in the morning, then head away at lunchtime – or be due in on the Monday post-holiday, but call in sick on the from the destination and make a doctor’s appointment for 4pm that day to get that note.

      1. Candi*

        Someone willing to jump through all those hoops to fake out the company probably has other work issues.

    3. Anonymity*

      My employer does this, at least with holidays. We get major holidays off with pay, and usually a day or two before/after, depending on where the holiday falls during the week. For Christmas this year, we have the 23rd (Fri) and the 26th (Mon) off with pay. If you request off a neighboring day to when the office is closed and are approved, fine. But if you call out, you lose all the holiday pay from that holiday. I can’t say for sure if even a doctor’s note would help, and I don’t know if the same applies for scheduled vacation.

    4. Candi*

      What if the person can’t get out of bed? Then they’ll wind up missing at least two days anyway, since if the company is going to dock two days anyway, they may as well take it and get that note -or benefit of the doubt, depending on how the company works.

  12. Schnoodle*

    I was taken aback by the tone of the entire text, but especially the image of the receipt for reimbursement. Is this a thing? I’ve never heard of reimbursing an employee for a doctor’s visit, maybe when worker’s comp is involved, but not for a non-work related illness.

    1. Laura*

      OP said it’s part of the organization’s policy to reimburse employees if they have to get a doctor’s note.

    2. Scorpio*

      The OP said that it’s their organization’s policy to reimburse the expense for getting a doctor’s note.

    3. Erin*

      I’ve never heard of the reimbursement either. Maybe that’s supposed to compensate somewhat for the demeaning nature of asking for doctors notes.

      That being said, if it were me, and I knew I was putting them in a lurch when they’d gone out of their way to accommodate me, I probably would have offered to go get a doctor’s note just as a gesture of good faith. (I did this once when working in retail when I had to call out on Black Friday.)

      Anyway. The doctor’s note thing I agree should be revisited, but the woman’s tone and attitude about the whole thing trumps that. Especially if she, presumably, knew about the doctor’s note policy it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

    4. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Here in New Zealand, if your employer asks for a doctor’s note when you’ve been sick for less than three calendar days, the employer is required to reimburse you the doctor’s fee. Three or more calendar days, the cost is on the employee. It’s great because very few companies want to shell out $45ish for an employee to confirm yes, they really did have a migraine — so it cuts down on the inconvenience to sick employees.

  13. Electric Hedgehog*

    I normally agree with AMA, but in this case I really think you have to additionally address the tone she gave in her text. That’s totally unacceptable.

  14. AW*

    I have a huge migraine…

    OP, is this part of why you’re assuming the employee knew they were going to get sick? Because that made me raise an eyebrow too. Triggers can change over time but if they’re knowledgeable about migraines at all one would think they could have anticipated common triggers like hunger and thirst making them feel ill. On the other hand, who knows if they’re actually getting treated for them and/or have any idea how to prevent them.

    1. Murphy*

      I used to get really bad migraines once or twice a month with no idea what my triggers were. No common foods, locations, etc. There was nothing I could do to anticipate them or stop them, and I was seeing a doctor. So I disagree that experience with migraines would automatically mean you should be able to anticipate when they might occur.

    2. not so super-visor*

      Agreed– as a migraine sufferer, I know first-hand how migraine triggers can definitely change. I think the issue wasn’t that the employee had a migraine but rather that she participated in actions that had the potential to negatively impact her ability to perform her job (dehydrating herself, cutting calories) in pursuit of a hobby. Even if she hadn’t had the migraine, if she was getting dizzy spells, that would impact most people’s performance at work.

    3. Jinx*

      Yeah, that stuck out to me, but that’s probably because I have migraines and know that not eating / drinking is the easiest way for me to trigger one. The thing is, it’s common to use the word “migraine” to describe several different types of headaches, and it’s also possible to get a headache from hunger / dehydration without having migraines. I don’t want to read too much into that one word.

      1. not so super-visor*

        Yes! 100+ on this. A lot of people who don’t regularly suffer from migraines tend to classify any large headache as a migraine. It’s not the same thing.

        1. not so super-visor*

          Also agree on the forgetting to eat/drink enough water as being a huge migraine trigger for me! I always kick myself when this happens, but it’s never intentional.

      2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        I once had a low grade headache for *days* until my housemate kindly pointed out that I wasn’t drinking much water, and might want to try that.

      3. AW*

        I did think about that, that the employee might have just meant “really bad headache”, but I left it out of my comment because “dizzy spells” implied an actual migraine and I felt it was better to assume the employee was being honest and accurate as opposed to using hyperbole.

        1. Jinx*

          Yes, I didn’t mean to say that it’s impossible the employee really had a migraine, just that we can’t tell one way or the other based on her using the word.

        2. Candi*

          Lack of food/water can cause dizzy spells as well. It’s hard to know without being inside her head.

          And don’t get me started on migraine’s moving goal posts. -_-

  15. Chrissi*

    The one time my manager made me get a doctor’s note for a migraine, here’s how that went:
    Dr: what’s up?
    Me: I have a migraine and my manager wants a note
    Dr: ok, should I make that for one day or two?
    The End

    What’s the point of getting a doctor’s note for a condition or illness like that? So dumb and a giant waste of time and money. Sorry, still makes me angry just thinking about it apparently…

    1. Allison*

      Lucky! I once went in to get a doctor’s note for what I thought might be a tonsil infection, and was diagnosed with tonsil stones and a common cold. But then when she wrote the note she insisted I only needed a day to recover, and I needed to push for a second day.

    2. a.n.o.n.y.m.o.u.s.*

      Seriously. The symptoms of migraine are pretty much all self-reported, so the doctor just has to take the patient’s word for it. There’s not really much you can do to treat it either, once it’s come on in full force. Maybe give something for nausea, but traditional painkillers don’t really work that well. For most normal migraines, the best thing to do it to lie down in a quiet dark room and wait it out. Not waste your time calling doctors, driving to the office, sitting in a room with bright florescent lighting, and interacting with receptionists, nurses, and doctors.

  16. Cat*

    Wait, maybe I missed something, but are we sure she’s eating minimal calories and not drinking any water for body building reasons as opposed to illness reasons? I know that’s something people do to prep for competition, but I didn’t see anywhere in the note or letter where the employee specifically said they were doing it and not that they happened to get sick during the competition prep.

    1. AW*

      Are you asking if it’s possible the OP is saying they stopped eating and drinking *because* they’re sick? Not eating or drinking is only going to make a migraine worse. Also, the wording seems to imply cause and effect. If they’re not eating or drinking because their stomach feels bad, I’d think they’d just say “I’m very nauseous” or if they’re otherwise too sick to get out of bed they’d say that. Even if it wasn’t done for the competition, it reads like something they did on purpose and not additional symptoms of their sickness.

      Especially the “minimal calories” bit. That’s just a weird way to word something that isn’t deliberate or ongoing.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, I suppose it’s possible that she meant “I’m really sick — as evidence of how bad it is, I’ll let you know that I’ve hardly been able to eat or drink anything all day,” but if so, she chose a weird way of phrasing it. “I’m eating minimal calories” really doesn’t convey “I’ve only been able to eat minimal calories.” (And, yes, of course, who among us has never phrased something weirdly, especially when we’re feeling sick and distracted, etc., but at this point we’re kind of bending over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt.)

    2. Violet Fox*

      A friend of mine gets really awful migraines. If she does not prep when she starts to get it with medication, she actually cannot eat or drink while she has the worst of it. Even a sip of water will lead to puking. She also really is not in any way physically capable of driving while having them.

      1. Kat A.*

        This is me. No one should force me to drive when I have a migraine. And ambulance rides here cost $550 and only go to the hospital (not my doctor’s office). So I’d be in the ER much longer than a doctor’s office, and with the hospital’s bright lights making my migraine worse and worse. And then how would I get home?

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, this is what’s confusing me about some of the comments…I inferred both based on the OP’s description and some minor background knowledge of bodybuilding that the illness was self-inflicted insofar as the employee was purposely not eating or drinking in preparation for the contest. Others seem to be reading those as symptoms of an illness that unfortunately ended up coinciding with the timing of her competition, which completely changes the situation.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        I think the people reading it in the latter way (bad timing) are just giving the employee the benefit of the doubt.

  17. Moonsaults*

    I would be just as ticked off as you are but the better thing to do would be to just remember not to accommodate her anymore in the future for vacation days she’s not entitled to instead of the vindictive “well I need a doctors note” route.

    I have seen this kind of over reaction lead to firing of good employees that really bite you in the butt afterwards, so I caution that kind of snapping and request in the future.

    It’s about a pattern and over all reliability. If she’s regularly a good worker when she does show up and this isn’t a habit, then it’s a major inconvenience but really something that would be better addressed in person when she returns.

    Really she should have just scheduled a sick day in advance and that’s just a “we need to work on our communication” kind of meeting in the making.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Asking for a doctors note seems to be normal company policy, as silly as that policy is the OP wasn’t being vindictive to the employee

      1. Moonsaults*

        It says that it’s acceptable under the CBA, not that it’s standard.

        It’s not standard in most companies unless it’s 3 consecutive days. It’s actually illegal to request them in our state before 3 days.

    2. Episkey*

      Good point — next time this happens, you don’t have to be so accommodating to her if she’s out of vacation days.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This gets to the heart of the problem, in my mind.

      OP, you gave too much. Your employee took too much. Now both of you are unhappy with each other.

      Don’t accommodate her time off requests like this again. Tell her you thought about it and you cannot do this for everyone so you need to not do this. Let her know there will be no more juggling of schedules so she can have vacation time and still get a full work week.

      Also let her know that you assume that was her sickness talking and you don’t expect to be spoken with or texted like that again.

      If your company does have a policy of no sick time next to vacation time, be sure to go over that policy with her one more time.

      I had an ear infection one time. My neck tightened and I could not move my head away from the odd angle I had to hold it at. My boss got scared. The doctor’s note cost $113, plus gas for a 60 mile round trip annnd I lost two days pay. Angry does not describe how I felt. I knew what was wrong, I had stuff here to treat it with and all I needed to do was take the stuff and sleep. Instead of sleeping, I sat in a walk-in place for hours plus the drive time. I was so exhausted from the process, that I had to take the next day to sleep. The ear infection, which I could have treated at home, cost me hundreds of dollars.
      Please don’t be that boss.

  18. Scorpio*

    I was wondering if any managers could answer this which is on the same subject – I have a friend who suffers from a chronic but undiagnosed digestive illness. It’s embarrassing and humiliating for her to work through an episode. But, as it stands, she doesn’t know what is wrong with her. She’s currently looking for jobs where she will be able to put in for a sick day without much notice, but she works in customer service. How should a manager handle something like this? Especially if she isn’t able to provide a doctor’s note saying “Sally has XYZ and can’t work through a flare-up”.

    1. KellyK*

      Her doctor doesn’t have to have a diagnosis to know that she’s having issues. They can give her a note that says she’s ill without specifying whether it’s IBS or celiac or XYZ syndrome (and they shouldn’t specify anyway, because the employer doesn’t need to know).

    2. PlainJane*

      Intermittent FMLA could be a good option if she’s eligible medically, and her employer is large enough to be covered by FMLA.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I went on vacation. I came home with an intestinal virus that would. not. go. away.
      I used a walk-in medical center to get my notes. It was almost two weeks, but I kept trying to go to work.

      Basically managers have to address excessive absences. They have no choice.
      She could try telling a boss that she has an on-going issue and she is trying to seek help for it. However, I would only say that if it were true. Some bosses will work with that and some won’t.

  19. Queen Anne of Cleves*

    1. An employer who requires a doctor’s note for one missed day of work probably has a myriad of issues as a place of employment.
    2. If I have to drag myself to a doctor, wait in the waiting room, pay a copay, drag myself back home and then submit my receipt for reimbursement I would not be happy. I don’t miss work for colds. I miss work for illnesses for which I can barely get out of bed.
    3. We have all typed out an email in frustration and once in a blue moon hit send and then regretted it.

    A combination of the three factors above working together…I likely would have at a minimum typed out the snotty email too….as for actually sending it….I might have if I had a high fever and just spent 2-3 hours doing something utterly ridiculous like getting a doctors note.

    1. Marisol*

      I agree. She felt physically awful and got a little sassy in an email as a result. Most of what she wrote was factual, rather than overtly hostile. As long as this kind of thing isn’t a pattern, I’d let it go.

    2. Imaginary Number*

      I agree. There’s also something of the embarrassment factor of having to explain to the doctor that you know there’s nothing they can do but you have to be there anyway because your employer sent you. For example, if you have migraines and even though they’re few and far between, you’ve had them before and already have medication. “Sorry, I know there’s nothing you can do but I’m just here so you can write a note confirming I have a horrible migraine … and the only reason you know I have a migraine is because I told you so it’s silly anyway.”

    3. Crazy Canuck*

      I apparently am the only one who disagrees with this. If one of my employees texted me a letter like that, I would not be letting it go, I would be applying progressive discipline. If this was their third strike, I’d fire them over it. If the employee was still new and on their probation period, I would fire them over it. Otherwise, it would be a lecture about appropriate business communications and a write-up in their files.

      For the record, I agree that requiring doctor’s notes is counterproductive, and my company does not require them. If my company wanted to start requiring them, I’d push back for all the reasons others have mentioned. This fact doesn’t change my answer.

      1. Honeybee*

        “A lecture”? Not a discussion or a conversation? I would not appreciate ‘a lecture’ from my manager as if I was some sort of child.

  20. beetrootqueen*

    migraines are a right nasty thing. it’ve very possible when she was typing it out due to the migraine looking at screens hurt, was horrible made her feel worse etc so she typed something out and sent it not checking over the tone or re-reading as she normally would.
    it sounds to me that she messed up and her tone was off but honestly tell her not to do it again and then drop it. You can’t schedule a migraine and for some people even if they know its triggered and gonna start there isn’t a lot they can do. me included.

    1. Manders*

      Yeah, I try to pay extra attention to my tone when I’m feeling ill, but I won’t pretend I’ve never been snappy while I was in a lot of pain.

      I also really doubt I could get myself to a doctor safely while having a migraine and a dizzy spell. I certainly wouldn’t want to be driving in that situation. OP may want to push back on the doctor’s note policy if she has the authority to do that.

    2. Kat A.*

      Yeah. Looking at computer or phone screens, even on the lowest brightness settings, doesn’t just hurt when I have a migraine, it HURTS! to the point where I’ll be crying.

  21. Allison*

    Two things:

    1) If someone’s too sick to work, they’re too sick to work, let them take time to recover. Making them to go a doctor when they just need rest is unnecessary, regardless of the impact their illness has.

    2) People should avoid doing stuff to their bodies that make them unable to work. You shouldn’t drink yourself silly when you have to work the next night, for example. So for something self-inflicted like that, or someone being starved from a training diet, or having stayed up way too late to watch the election results and being stupidly optimistic you’d be able to bounce out of bed the next day, best thing to do is give them the day but then explain (clearly, not vaguely or passive aggressively) once they’re better that it can’t become a habit.

    3) Seems like in this specific case, you gave her an inch and she rudely walked all over you, it’s fair to tell her if it happens again she will not get that kind of flexibility.

  22. Temperance*

    I used to work with someone who had severe asthma, and for whatever reason, used to go to the club every weekend, back before the Clean Indoor Air Act. So she would either call out on Fridays or Mondays, or come in and get sent to the ER by my jerkass boss. She was the receptionist, so I was stuck sitting and the front desk and answering phones and getting reprimanded for not doing my work, which was not possible at the reception desk.

    My jerkass boss at the time favored this person (giving her preferential shifts/scheduling), so nothing was ever done, but it really grated on me.

    1. Imaginary Number*

      I think the difference here is that, as of right now, this is a one time event. It would be very different if the employee had a habit of calling out sick the week before bodybuilding competitions.

  23. DCGirl*

    Back in college, I worked in a bank. There were usually three to four tellers at each branch. One Monday morning, I was pulled off the teller line by my manager and told I had to drive to another branch ASAP as they needed help. When I got to the other branch, I found the branch manager behind the teller line facing a line that was practically out the door while the new accounts person tried to keep the peace.

    All four tellers from the branch had decided to go to the beach together on Sunday. They drank too much, fell asleep in the sun, and ended up with really bad sunburns, with blistering, etc. On Monday, they had ALL called in sick, each of them probably thinking, “Well, Deborah, Nancy, and Decca will all be there. It’s ok if I call in sick.” Once the branch finally closed at 3:00, the manager called them all and gave them a good talking-to.

    I tell this story to say that there’s self-inflicted and there’s unpredicted. An epidemic of sunburn is self-inflicted. This situation sounds more like it could have been unpredicted. With that said, I do think that this manager needed to have a talk with the employee about calling in sick the day before a bonus vacation that the manager worked to get for her. At best, the behavior doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    1. Imaginary Number*

      Well, I would argue that an epidemic of sunburn is also unpredicted. I seriously doubt it was their intention.

    2. AJS*

      I hope the fourth employee was Pam, because I certainly wouldn’t want Diana or Unity facing the public.

      PS great minds think alike!

    3. Becky*

      I would say the sunburns are definitely self-inflicted but unpredictable. The situation in this letter though may have been predictable–if this employee has previously gone through this preparation regimen, they would know the affect it has on their body and energy levels.

    4. AMG*

      And she also could have eaten something and drank a glass of water to make it into work. Sunburns are not resolvable, but the employee’s situation was. I’d be pissed.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        That is my thought as well. Everyone keeps focusing on the word “migraine” The employee did not have a migraine, which are debilitating and the only real treatment for a migraine is normally a drug that forces you to sleep it off. What this employee had was a bad headache from low blood sugar and/or being dehydrated. A couple bottles of a sports drink, and her symptoms would have gone away. She chose not to treat her “illness” because she wanted to make keep her muscle mass ratio as high as possible.

        I wouldn’t have asked her for the doctor’s note, but I would have told her that her behavior was unacceptable, and I’d certainly never accommodate her so she could go to a competition again.

        1. Jayn*

          Eh, DH gets migraines and while debilitating is certainly the right word, there’s definitely a variance in severity. Sometimes he’s flat out out of commission, others he can catch it in the early stages and keep it from getting worse. My thought is the latter scenario here–she may have been able to maintain it at a level where she’s still semi-functional, but once it developed she wouldn’t be able to actually make it any better.

        2. a.n.o.n.y.m.o.u.s.*

          Low blood sugar and dehydration can be triggers for migraine. You can’t know what kind of headache she really had. Also, “a drug that forces you to sleep it off” is not the only real treatment for migraine. There are different treatments with different side effects that differ in effectiveness for different people depending on the time they are taken.

        3. Honeybee*

          Low blood sugar and dehydration are two of my (actual diagnosed) migraine triggers. Once the migraine is full-blown, a sports drink does not make it go away. And my migraine treatment does not force me to sleep it off (it actually doesn’t have any drowsiness as a side effect).

        4. Candi*

          I’ve never taken specific migraine meds. When I had them, I took Tylenol or ibuprofen, got a cold wash cloth, and stayed in bed. (Don’t you dare open that curtain!)

          Once I realized they were food triggered, I started avoiding those foods.

          (I miss chocolate.) :(

          The thing is, a couple of times, I -accidentally- ate a trigger food that I didn’t know was on ‘my’ list. (Think eating some ham when knowing sausage sets me off, while knowing pepperoni is fine.)

          If the amount is small enough, I don’t get a full migraine. I do get vertigo and nausea, and sometimes a low-grade headache. It won’t necessarily keep me in bed, but it is still bites.

    5. Miss Displaced*

      LOL! Yeah, I must admit I am also guilty of something similar back when I was young in the workplace.
      We had a “no time off” policy during Feb-March, where we would also be working 12-14 hour days on graveyard shift.

      Well, my birthday falls in March and I wanted to go skiing on my birthday for a long weekend trip. So I called in sick on that Friday. Needless to say, my workplace was calling and left some 10 or more messages for me (no cell phones back then). Then I got badly sunburned while skiing and called in sick Monday as well, but the tell-tale burnt face and white google eyes was all there to my shame. I didn’t get fired, but I did get chewed out and teased a lot.

      I felt bad, but not too bad as I quit that job a month or so later anyway. The hours and night shift work were just over the top all the time, and you could basically NEVER take a vacation or get time off.

  24. rubyrose*

    Besides talking to her about her attitude, in the future I would hold her to only being able to take time off if she had it to take. No more special allowances here.

  25. Stellaaaaa*

    There comes a time when we have to figure out how to balance our hobbies with our adult responsibilities. If this employee intends to keep up with her running, she might need to find a job where she’s a little less necessary. I’d say the same thing of someone who routinely needed one-week chunks off for local tours with their band. If you can’t squeeze this time-intensive stuff into your off time or save it for your vacation days, you need to get better handle on the concept of work/life balance.

  26. AJS*

    Doctors, especially general practitioners, are overworked and every minute of their time is usually scheduled. That’s one of the reasons why you’re lucky to get 15 minutes even if you have real medical concerns. So they’re supposed to make time to see, and write a note for, for everyone who has a head cold or stubbed their toe?


  27. MsCHX*

    1) Requiring a note for one day out is overkill IMO.
    2) You can really be placing an undue burden on the employee. One because I may be too sick to work and not want to spread whatever I have (if it is indeed contagious) but a bad cold does not, in any way, require a trip to the doctor. What would be the purpose? You have to drive (what if you’re taking cold medicines?) and spend an hour or two (or three) at the doctor’s office for what? There’s nothing they can do for you. Also, that visit has to be paid for and you cannot assume the employee has the means to pay for a visit out of pocket and wait to be reimbursed by you. That is unfair. I know for me, my employer has decent insurance (which I am moving to!) but we were on my spouse’s plan which is horrible. No co-pays just 80% coinsurance after the $5000(!!) family deductible.
    3) I’ve totally had doctors, as someone mentioned above, ask what I wanted and that’s what they write. Obviously within reason…I can’t say I need 10 days off for a migraine. But if I said 2 for example, they write 2.

  28. Hummus for Lunch*

    The OP says: “As per our collective agreement, a manager can request a doctor’s note for any absence due to illness, and the organization will reimburse the employee if there is a charge.”
    The collective agreement part makes me think that the organization is union. Which means that the OP may have ‘had’ to require a doctor’s note. I know the wording says ‘can request’ but if there are multiple employees there is much pressure to treat them equally (as seen by the union). So if the manager does not ask for a doctor’s note from this employee, and asks from every other employee, then those employees could file a grievance with the union. This is probably why they offer to reimburse- takes a little of the sting out of the requirement.

  29. AMG*

    I may have requested the doctor’s note because s situation is so odd. I also may have written her up for insubordination and would never do her a favor again. She needed to eat some crackers and get her butt into the office.

    1. Observer*

      In other words, you know zero about migraines. It just doesn’t work that way. No matter what the trigger is, for most people, once it’s on, it’s on and no amount of undoing the trigger is going to make it stop.

  30. Jill*

    In the employee’s defense, she was eating a minimal calorie diet. I know when I eat less than my body needs, my blood sugar drops and I get “hangry” – unusually crabby and easily irritated. And when I ‘m sick and trying to feel better in general, I don’t like to be bothered so I do sound crabbier. Don’t bug me when I’m sick.

    It sounded like the OP wanted that doctor’s note right away. Why did you need an immediate picture of it? I agree that a note for a one-day illness is ridiculous but even if your organization feels it’s legitimate, what on earth did she need to hop out of bed and send it to you same day for? Why couldn’t she have brought it in on her next work day? I would have had a tone over that, too!

    1. wanita*

      The original poster did want her to call back as soon as possible (immediately), and was irked that it took her hours.

  31. Pari*

    Here’s what bothers me- the manager goes out of her way to accommodate the employees request for time off when he has no available leave. Then the employee knew or should have known that she was setting herself up to call in the day before. Clearly the employee isn’t putting forth the effort to abide by the agreement

    I’d be real hesistant to do make that sort of accommodation again

    1. AMG*

      And the employee could fix it by eating something and drinking some water instead of just saying that work wasn’t going to happen.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          That depends on whether she had an actual migraine or a dehydration/hunger-induced headache. I know we don’t like to police word use here, but there’s a reasonable segment of the population that uses ‘migraine’ as a stand-in for a nasty headache the same way others use ‘depressed’ as a stand-in for ‘sad.’

          Either way, from what other commenters have said, if the employee has been in one of these competitions before, she very likely knows what to expect of her body leading up to the day-of, so this may not have been any kind of surprise to her.

    2. Miss Displaced*

      Yeah, that really bothers me that the employee did that. If they knew they needed the extra day, they should have asked for it up front (and I’m sorry but it does kind of smack of them planning to use the sick day this way).
      Now, I don’t know what their policy is for sick days, or if the employee had any left, but at many places it is frowned upon to use sick days prior to/just after a paid holiday or vacation. It happens, sure, but I’d be pretty wary of this employee in the future.

  32. Tiny_Tiger*

    I highly doubt that the employee getting a migraine and feeling like utter crap was a planned thing. As someone who suffers from migraines, I can safely tell you there’s no accurate way to tell when they’re going to hit or what will trigger them. I didn’t start getting severe migraines until AFTER I started drinking around 76 oz of water a day and made sure to eat enough during the day. Yes, it’s crappy timing and yes the text was on the rude side, but frankly if my manager texted me while I had a migraine demanding that I provide a doctor’s note due to a one-day absence, I would be livid. I can’t look at any light, I can’t hear any sound above a whisper, I’m in pain that can literally be blinding and enough to make me throw up, and yet I’d be expected to drive to an emergency care center? Not a chance in hell that response would be anything close to professional.

    1. Pari*

      So you’re assuming a competition body builder had no idea that starving and extreme dehydration might cause energy loss, dizziness and headaches? Really?

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        And what if she had never competed before or had never had this bad of a reaction before? I’m covered in tattoos and managed to sit for 5 1/2 hours while getting one on my left side. I went in 2 months later to get another one on my right side, still ate and drank plenty of water before going in, did not take any meds that could have thinned my blood all week, and I barely made it an hour before I started shaking uncontrollably and my artist had to stop. She might have felt a little crappy in times past doing this but still been able to work, but for some reason this time was different. You can’t always predict how these things will affect you.

        1. Miss Displaced*

          I think though the fact this illness precedes the bonus time off it smacks of them planning to call in sick all along to get the extra day. Really it does. As in, I’m too sick to work on Thursday, but fine to compete in a very physical activity on Friday way.
          If it were “after” the competition, it might have held up better. If they truly needed the extra day, they should have asked for it up front. Yeah, people do get sick before and after holidays and vacations. But this seemed off, PLUS the attitude, so it was a combination of things at play. At some offices maybe not a big deal, but it sounds like shifts were difficult to arrange here.

        2. Pari*

          That might be a plausible explanation if she tried to explain that, but she didn’t- she got offended when the manager called to find out what happened

    2. Franky*

      I am 100% with you – I am a chronic migraine sufferer and far too many people think it is a minor headache you can plan around by popping a Tylenol. I can go to bed feeling AMAZING and wake up in excruciating pain because I had a late supper or forgot my water bottle while out. I can spend the day puking and writhing in bed sobbing because I can’t tolerate the pain. Minor migraines I can make it into work and be unproductive – but a major migraine is a game changer.

      If an employer demanded a doctors note I could not provide one. I live alone and cannot drive in that state, no cab will take someone puking, and an ambulance is a $300 ride.

      OP overkilled the situation. The voicemail was enough, sending a text asking for a note makes it seem like he needed it that very second. Why did she need to contact him as soon as possible? I suspect he was going to tell her since they couldn’t cover her shift (and this was her fault) she had to come into work or give a note.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      She didn’t have a migraine. She had a bad headache from low blood sugar and dehydration, which she is calling a migraine. They are miserable, but she could have taken care of it with a couple bottles of a sports drink. But that would have jeopardized her low muscle mass ration. The employee prioritized that over her job.

      1. Observer*

        How do you know that? Yes, you can get a headache from low blood sugar that will respond fairly quickly to something like sports drinks. But some people really DO get migraines, and those do NOT respond to sprots drinks.

      2. Honeybee*

        You don’t know this. If she says she had a migraine, then let’s deal with the issue as if she had a migraine.

        I’m sensitive to this because I have chronic migraines. It irritates me when people try to tell me what kind of headache I have, or worse, want to engage me in a conversation about what kind of headache it is and the symptoms while I’m having the migraine.

        Also, btw, even if you have a regular headache as a result of low blood sugar and dehydration (which are also migraine triggers, btw), it’s not as simple as drinking a sports drink and resolving the issue within a few minutes. They can still sometimes take hours to resolve. Everybody’s bodies are different.

        1. Kate*

          I would agree with you, I am a fellow migraine sufferer, but many, many people use “migraine” to mean “headache” and don’t even know that they are separate things.

  33. Rusty Shackelford*

    I think the problem with this incident is that it’s a perfect storm of inappropriate behavior. I could very easily forgive someone who did something reckless, not knowing it would make her too sick to work. I could forgive her for needing that extra day off after I went to some lengths to give her a weekend off that she wasn’t entitled to. I could even forgive a snotty note from someone who was in pain (although I’ve called/emailed in while in a great deal of pain and never been this snotty, just gotta say). But doing all three at once is just too much.

    1. Miss Displaced*

      That’s what kind of grates on me too. Yes, OP would be over the line if this were just a migraine “out of the blue.” But the fact that it precedes the bonus time off it smacks of them planning to call in sick all along. Really, it does.

  34. Zona the Great*

    I’d probably address it directly as I do believe such a text is reason enough. I realize this is counter to what AAM said but even without asking for the note, the action is worth addressing. I think it was the, I-need-to-sleep-so-stop-bothering-me tone that would really set me off. If you really need to sleep to that extent, turn off your phone. I’ve challenged a boss before like this but never because s/he asked for something that is part of company policy. The LW is right, this is like someone saying they didn’t know binge drinking could result in loss of ability to work and expects sympathy. Professional athletes get fined or fired for putting their work at risk and they are not even doing real world work.

    1. Observer*

      Well, apparently the employee did turn off the phone for a while, because she originally didn’t answer the phone. From what the OP says, it seems that the fact that she probably shut her phone makes things worse, not better.

  35. Tiger Snake*

    I was actually surprised that you thought asking for a doctor’s certificate was over the top, Alison. But then I wondered whether there might be a cultural consideration at play.

    In Australia, its VERY common to require a medical certificate if you’re sick the day before or after a weekend/other time off. Its actually required in my current job, and its normalised enough that I didn’t blink an eye at the requirement. In a case where a manager has allowed someone to take time off, and then didn’t ask for a medical certificate when that person called out sick the day before hand, it would be the manager that would be drawn over the hot coals.
    The only time I DON’T have a medical certificate is when I’m calling in sick on a Wednesday and I already have cert for Mon-Tues. I’d then get another Thursday if I needed it.

    BUT, Australia also has public health care, walk-in clinics – even the privatised doctor’s offices only require a fairly low co-pay and have a handful of extra appointment times specifically for cases like this. And it time is more a concern than money, pharmacy nurses are able to give you a one-day certificate of absence for simple illnesses for something like $25 consultation.
    In short, going to the doctor is mildly inconvenient, but it is not a hardship.

    It was really weird to read you call something so normal to me “over the top”.

    1. Observer*

      It sounds like a rather stupid set up, to be honest. On the one hand it’s a pretty stupid use of resources. And even a low co-pay can be a burden for a lot of people. And, it puts a ridiculous burden on people who are sick but don’t need a doctor. (eg I have a migraine. What is the doctor supposed to do for me? But, getting there to get the note can be tortuous.)

      On the other hand, it assumes that people simply cannot be trusted, and we need to annoy them into not using their sick time. Let’s face it, what’s the doctor or nurse going to write in the note if you walk in and say “My stomach is killing me” and they don’t see anything? Going to the doctor doesn’t prove you are sick, and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. So what’s them purpose?

      Think about this for a minute – doctors need to set aside time each day just to write sick notes for people who don’t need medical care. Does this really sound like a good use of the the time of someone whose education probably cost tons of money, and whose office operations are also not cheap?

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      I’m in the UK, with free healthcare, and most workplaces won’t ask for a sicknote unless someone is out for more than 4 consecutive working days, because a) it’s ridiculous for all the reasons people have mentioned, b) it’s a really stupid use of taxpayers’ money, and c) it takes appointments away from people who really need them.

    3. Honeybee*

      I don’t think it’s cultural; asking for doctor’s notes for days off work and school is pretty common here in the U.S. I think it’s because it doesn’t really make any sense.

      Number one, a doctor’s note doesn’t prove anything beyond that you went to the doctor. A not-sick person could very easily fake some non-verifiable symptoms and get a note stating that they were in the doctor’s office. And if you are friends with any medical personnel, they can write you a note.

      Secondly, if you’re sick enough to not go to work you probably don’t want to go to the doctor unless you’re sick for a couple of days and need antibiotics or it’s something super serious. But for your generic cold, or a migraine, there’s nothing the doctor can do. Getting to the doctor is likely to be more hassle than staying in bed and resting, regardless of the cost. (And for some people, even $25 is a lot of money, and they may not have reliable transportation to a doctor’s office.)

      Also, in the U.S. going to the doctor is a significant hardship for many, many people.

    4. Brisvegan*

      I’m an Aussie, too. I think it depends on your work culture a bit. My Uni workplace would usually only require a certificate for 3+ days absence, even near a holiday. However, we also have very flexible work from home options and hours, for our salaried academic staff. (It’s different for our administrative staff, as there are coverage issues and attendance needed for student services in some cases.) I suspect that if someone made a habit of skipping face to face obligations, however, that might trigger more serious conversations/requirements.

      However, in retail or service work, or a range of occupations that require coverage, it would be pretty normal, as Tiger Snake commented, to ask for medical certificates where days off might be staff member taking a long weekend or extra holiday. My husband is a bus driver and would probably be expected to get a certificate or lose 2 days of sick leave for one day off (they also have a huge 75+ day bank of sick leave each due to union negotiation, which ironically had led to some misuse of leave.)

      Tiger Snake also didn’t mention that many city areas also now have bulk billing or low cost house call doctors. I would ring a local service and get a doctor to my place for care and a certificate with no out of pocket cost, in my large city. I have never done it, but have seen flyers around. This makes getting care and a certificate much easier for those who need to be in bed. Totally different to what I hear happens in the US.

  36. wanita*

    If she had scheduled PTO for that weekend with time in the bank — instead of a shift swap–or had no PTO it sounds as if your workplace would have been in a bind due to any of those site employees being out due to illness. But it’s all mushed together in everyone’s heads because there was a favor for the planned part. Compounded by both a poor tone AND her letting you know the details of her illness.

    I think you have to let the self-inflicted part go, and instead see if there’s a pattern of abusing unscheduled leave in general.

    I don’t call in ill lightly to work, and I have been tapped to respond to people at work while I was out. And I was slow in figuring them out and grumpy because… I was sick. I wasn’t able to give my employer, coworkers, or customers what they needed. I wasn’t grumpy or slow to make a point; that was caused by the illness itself.

    I don’t understand the urgency that she call you back after you had conveyed the requirement of the note. She contacted you once. To me “several hours later”=one same-day contact after having the required documentation in hand.

    It sounds as if no one was at there best here in terms of tone or behavior. She NEEDED to be off (whether or not she failed to anticipate something she should have); you were unable to take a planned absence.Your workplace had a huge coverage problem.

    Everyone was in a crappy situation. Everyone’s dander was up.

    Alison’s script sounds great as to this specific situation.

  37. Riverosprite*

    A few years ago, I got a massive tattoo flu. It was with my forth tattoo and I had never had a tattoo flu before, and had no idea they could be that severe. I had no idea it would be a good idea to schedule the appointment when I had the following day off. Yes, I did it to myself but that didn’t change the fact that I was sicker than a dog.

    My point is it might have been unexpected. She could have had no idea she would have reacted that badly to her pre-competition program.

  38. sstabeler*

    I actually side with the LW here- “self-inflicted”, in this context, is where she KNEW- or should have- that she would need the day off work and yet didn’t ask for it. Had she asked for the day off beforehand- so that it was included in the shift swapping- it would be fine for her to take the day off. However, it DID need to be part of the planned time off. I see this less as self-inflicted sickness as much as going on holiday, and not taking the days of the flights off, meaning you aren’t at work those days.

    I agree the doctor’s note is stupid though.

  39. Layers*

    Just chiming in regarding the doctor’s note.

    While most of us agree it’s silly and unnecessary, it’s actually required by many companies. I would guess it’s for auditing purposes since everyone signs a contract to work. In my country (in Asia), it’s actually required by law.
    1) It protects companies from employees that simply don’t turn up for work because they don’t feel like it. Everyone has a fixed number of sick leave days they can use, as long as a doctor’s note is provided. Otherwise they need to use vacation or no pay leave. I think that’s reasonable, especially for jobs based on shift work where every employee’s presence is critical.
    2) It’s to protect the employees as well. Imagine if someone verbally said you can stay home to rest, but then they report you as being missing from work for no reason and thus fire you or cut your pay.
    3) You can only get reimbursement for doctor’s fees with a prescription to your name, or else people would bring in other people’s receipts to claim.

    That being said, (reasonable) managers sometimes do give extra days / time off at their discretion. E.G. I once turned up to work with horrible sleep deprivation (due to personal issues). My manager just let me go home to rest and didn’t require a doctor’s note.

    tldr; Doctor’s notes are silly, but they are required legally at many companies and even entire countries. Reasonable managers may choose to be flexible at their discretion. However, this is a favor, not an obligation. We don’t know what the legal implications are for OP, so let’s not judge. Aside from that, the way the employee spoke to OP was totally out of line and doesn’t deserve OP’s kindness.

  40. Dave O'H*

    I’m wondering if I’m misreading things here.

    I don’t see anything that says that the migraine, etc. is self inflicted in any way. As a migraine sufferer, I’m not going to eat or drink anything beyond my meds when fighting a migraine; anything more than that will come back out, usually violently. Once I get to sleep, I’m essentially unconscious — telephones, text messages, email alerts, none of that even registers. On the very rare occasions when I’ve managed to keep going, my ability to communicate is shot; I can’t spell, I use wrong words, and my internal censor is gone.

  41. boop the first*

    So, what does a doctor’s note prove? At least in my blue-collar world, employers only demand notes from employees who are faking it. If I have a fake illness and I wander into the street clinic and purchase a doctor’s note, how does that prove I’m not sick? Do the rushed, impatient doctors actually require you to be diagnosed? I thought they just required cash. I SERIOUSLY doubt that they’re going to take swabs and test samples for known viruses/bacteria just for a note. Who even does onsite testing anymore?

    Is the request just another attempted display of dominance, to punish the employee with inconvenience? What will happen if she doesn’t bring the note? I sure wouldn’t.

  42. Newlywed*

    “At a location where only two staff are working at a time, this meant we were down 50% of our staff for that day.”
    You have a bigger issue on your hands if you don’t have a backup plan built in to cover employees who are out sick. Most illnesses aren’t planned, and the fact that you aren’t able to figure out how to cover that absence without a significant loss is a management issue, not an employee issue. Yes if the employee is repeatedly unexpectedly absent, that is a problem. But your bigger problem is not having a contingency plan to cover these kinds of scenarios without the works falling to pieces.

  43. The Letter Writer*

    Hi, I am the manager who wrote in with this question. Thank you all for the great feedback! It was helpful to see so many responses from different perspectives.

    Some background info to offer context:
    – we are a non-profit funded by the government so we do not have control over our staffing ratios
    – while we are not medical staff, the term “patient” probably provides a better context as I think most are picturing more of an office / business type setting
    – I have previously addressed this employee’s use of sick time and I have concerns both about her performance and how she prioritizes work.

    I’m still conflicted about having asked for the note. I usually don’t (unless its 3+ days at which point it is required) because I agree, it proves nothing. In retrospect, I think I was extremely frustrated that she didn’t answer my call and knew that the request would make contacting me non-optional (yup, probably an over-reaction but for all I knew at that point, she called in “sick” to hit the gym). Had she called before going to the doctor and told me what was going on, we’d still need to have a meeting this week, but I likely wouldn’t have forced the issues on getting a note.

    Attendance management is a real struggle in my organization. We have extremely high sick time allowances. It’s meant to be an insurance policy in case of things like surgery or serious illness / injury, but many employees do abuse this benefit. There’s little we can do because often when we start addressing poor attendance, the employee then files a grievance and claims to need even more sick leave because the manager is “harassing” them about it.

    I have arranged to meet with the employee later this week. I told her that I want her to come in with an open mind to hear what I have to say and that I am open to hearing her perspective as well. I told her it was evident to me that we need to work on having better communication and our meeting will address some concerns that I have with her performance, and hopefully open a dialogue to go from there.

    As a very new manager, I really do feel like the feedback from from this post will help in that conversation. Thank you!

    1. Observer*

      I hear you. And I totally get your frustration.

      Something to think about, as a practical matter. Asking people for doctor’s notes for single day absences is almost certainly going to be counter-productive, even with someone who you have reason to believe is abusing the policy. I would say this in any case, but it’s especially likely to be the case when people are likely to file grievances over harassment. The doctor’s note only works when you have reason to believe that someone is actually in a totally different location than they are supposedly at. You need a better method.

    2. Emily*

      As a migraine sufferer, I would be very upset if a manager called my migraine a “self inflicted injury,” and that the migraine was code for “I partied too hard last night.” What proof do you have of this with the person, why would you even go there? This sounds bizarre and suspicious. Perhaps you might find the timing suspicious, but to accuse the illness of being alcohol related? Wow.

  44. Candi*

    A couple years ago, Cracked ran an article that interviewed someone whose girlfriend did the whole bodybuilding (appearance) competition deal.

    #5 in “6 Myths About Body Builders That Are Total BS” addressed the employee’s problem. Apparently they start this type of diet at least a week in advance of a competition. It wasn’t hard for the author to learn about the diet, fasting, dehydration, and other issues -but not everyone is able to avail themselves of various resources in research.

    There are other sources on the net if readers here are interested in more detail. “Bodybuilding diet” brings up a mess of results.

  45. Emily*

    I thought this was odd: “I see no difference between this and “I partied really hard last night and have a huge hangover.” What is THAT about, from the manager? – It sounds as if she is stating if an employee says she has a migraine, that really means “I got drunk and I’m hung over.” Stigmatizing migraines is not uncommon, this line alone caused me to think the mgr was an ignorant jerk.

  46. Emily*

    I would add, “self inflicted illness” carries on the same odd stigmatization of migraine. How is the employee’s illness self inflicted? Is “partying hard” a new method of training? Where did that negative characterization come from? Perhaps the employee’s “entitled” response had to do with this sort of attitude from employer. Seems really odd.

Comments are closed.