Taking a sick day when too hungover to work

Inspired by this.(Short version: employee calls in sick but posts to Facebook that he’s actually too hungover to work; gets caught)

At another board I post to, there’s been a lot of discussion about this story. What’s shocked me is the number of people who have come out in support of the guy, saying that it’s perfectly legitimate to take a single sick day because you’re too hungover, or just don’t want to go to work that day. This attitude is completely foreign to me.

Who’s out to lunch here? Am I wrong that the majority of companies are going to care if you take sick days for non-illness related reasons, even if they can’t necessarily catch you for it?

Depends on the employer, and the methods you use to hide the fact that you’re not really sick.

At my work, if you have good attendance (missed no more than 2 days/3 tardies in a quarter) you can book off sick for a day at a time without any questions, and get paid sick time for it. But if you’ve racked up attendance points, or need to take more than 1 consecutive day off, you need to provide a doctor’s note in order to get paid for the time. There are other arrangements you can make to have the day(s) off without pay, but they have to be approved.

There was a married couple at my work years ago who got fired for fabricating doctor’s notes, in order to use sick time to book off for mundane things.

I think it’s on a job by job basis. I work at a small defense contractor, and though we are heavily scrutinized by the government, my boss, who is also the CEO, is of the mindset that if you are otherwise not feeling well for whatever reason, or otherwise just want a paid-time-off day, you are free to take it under all but the most unreasonable circumstances. That pretty much means that unless you are screwing the customer at a time critical point, or working on a key project that is otherwise at a point where you not being there prevents a dozen people from doing their jobs, you are probably o.k. to do it.

My boss is a reasonable guy, and as long as the excuse is legitimate, he wouldn’t have a problem with it. Hungover because you drank too much? Almost surely o.k. if it was the only time it happened and you don’t make a habit of it. Taking a trip to Disneyland that you knew about for a month but decided to take the Monday off, and lied about being sick because you didn’t think about it until that morning? Well, that makes you a jerk in my mind, and if you’re caught, I’d say I’d have to question what else you are lying about.

I have heard the story about the Facebook guy but no follow up. Was this a guy who regularly used every sick day in the bank and then some? If so, even if every other time he was sick was legitimate, I’d probably can his ass too, because how would I know that? I’m guessing this guy was a questionable employee anyway, and if it was looking like a layoff was possible because of the economy, he’d be at the top of my list, and if he did something stupid like that, he might have just sped up the decision process to let him go…

My boss has always made it clear that if you need a “mental health” day - i.e. wake up and just don’t feel like going to work due to stress, being run-down, whatever, it is perfectly acceptable to take a sick-day. We have a set number you are allowed a year, and as long as your not exceeding that, it isn’t a problem. After all, why should it matter to the company if you can only function at 30% because you are physically ill, or if you can only function at 30% because you just spent a week dealing with a family issue or whatever. Either way, you shouldn’t be at work. Ultimately, I think the hangover counts the same way. You really shouldn’t be at work that day, since your “face-time” won’t be worth it anyway.

We don’t have sick days, we have ETO. (Employee Time Off) If you need to just take a day off, there are usually no questions about it. If you take off 3 unscheduled days then you must show a doctors note. But one day for a hangover? I would take the day off and think nothing more of it.

We’ve been told by the Director of our department that if we need a “mental health day” we’re free to take it out of our personal leave allocation (combined sick, carer’s and “emergency” leave. Separate from our annual leave) - as long as we don’t try to pretend we’re actually sick.

So I’d feel okay taking a sick day for a hangover, provided it wasn’t a regular thing. They would be cool with that. What I wouldn’t do is then post about it on facebook.

Hung over is sick.

Yep, time off is time off in most jobs I’ve been at. I wouldn’t be dumb enough to brag about it on Facebook (which is almost daring your employer to do something about it), but an occasional day off is actually a good thing for most employees. Now, if you were abusing your PTO, or skipping out as some deadline approached, that’s another thing.

On another issue, my deal with myself has always been if I call in sick because of a hangover, that’s the day I’m done drinking. At that point, it’s starting to interfere with your life, and it’s time to reassess.

I agree, that hung over is sick. Doesn’t matter whether one’s inablility to do one’s job is self-inflicted or stupid.

My sick leave accumulates indefinitely, as disability leave. But you lose unused sick leave on retirement. I found out early in my career that I was in the minority actually running a balance of sick leave. Taking one sick day a month would not even get noticed. So even if I just played hooky once a month and credited it to sick leave, my boss wouldn’t care so long as I had my workload covered.

Of course, I get so much vacation, and only a certain amount of that carries over. So I end up just piling up the sick leave. If I ever get disabled, I’ll be happy for that. If not, and I lose it on retirement, well, my employer got a bargain all these years.

I agree that hung over is sick, for sure. However, it’s a sickness you made the decisions to place yourself in, knowing you had responsibilities the next day. As an employer, I would not look kindly on something like that, outside of some pretty strange circumstances.

I see it as a grey area.

Sure, if you get totally trashed all the time, you’re being an idiot. But plenty of people can drink without getting hungover most of the time, and only occasionally get sick as a result. In that case, I think it’s reasonable.

If I went skiing and broke my arm, I would be entitled to a sick day, even though I inflicted it upon myself. Even if I was a crappy skier and often hurt myself, I don’t think anyone would claim that my injury wasn’t valid for sick-day purposes.

We have a rather easy going drug/alcohol policy where I work.

No tests, no searches.

But one of the “rules” is that you can not come into work under the influence (of course) or arrive at work with the leftover effects of drinking or whatever (like a hangover).

Calling in sick because you have a hangover, would be in violation of that policy.

I’ve never been in that situation, but if I was I’d just say I’m not feeling well, and leave it at that.

It sounds to me like coming to work with a hangover would be in violation of that policy.

We have a PTO system where I work, to be used as we please. We’re only required to get approval for vacations, and it’s even possible to have a negative PTO balance, as long as your supervisor approves it. But people generally try to avoid using PTO hours for sick days because it comes out of the same pool as our vacation time.

Wow that bites. I think that our State retirement lets you keep it.

Sick leave policies I’ve been under before have been on the honor system - nobody would know you were hungover instead of sick unless you blabbed about it. One employer would also let parents use their sick leave to take a sick child to the doctor.

At my husband’s workplace, you are not supposed to be seen out-and-about if you’ve taken sick leave; unless you are traveling back and forth from medical appointments or the drug store. They also have to have a note after 3 days. Again, taking a sick day for hungover is fine as long as you lay low.

I think it’s poor work ethic to the extreme. Even as a teenager at my first job, I knew that I didn’t go out and get wasted the night before I had to work. That is because I was banking on that second day of recovery.

A coworker recently called in sick… the day after his birthday. He fully admitted he was hung over and was out until four in the morning. What were the consequences for him? Nothing. Me? I had to do his work, as well as cover my manager who was off on a training session. That day was hell, all because my coworker couldn’t wait until the weekend to get drunk. (And really… we’re adults now. No need to posture with the alcohol anymore) It is very selfish to call in because you were being irresponsible.

You could say the same if you break your leg skiing over the weekend, but nobody’s going to question that as a sick day.

ETA: okay, the ski analogy has already been made. I guess we all agree that skiing is risky and almost as likely to cause a need ofr a sick day as drinking.

That’s my basic position too. One of my employees pulled this stunt on me a couple of months ago. I accepted his “sickness” excuse (he was at a party on Sunday night and got completely plastered) but warned him not to try it again. My argument was that Mondays follow Sundays with surprising regularity, and if he knows that he has to be at work on Mondays, he shouldn’t be getting drunk on Sunday nights. We have generous sick leave provisions. However regular abuse of them is a sackable offence.

I suppose it depends on the job. I’ve taken two mental health days in the last three years (in my defense, both were on days I knew I wouldn’t have much to do.) Admittedly, I didn’t claim them as mental health, I just said I didn’t feel well. But those weren’t planned - if you go out drinking the evening before you have to work, you’re making an irresponsible choice and you probably know it.

I think being too sick to work is valid for taking a sick day, even if it is self inflicted. You should avoid wasting sick days on hangovers cause you might not have any for real sickness and then end up having to take unpaid time off. But if there are sick days to your name and you’re green in the face and blowing chunks every half an hour I sure as hell don’t want you in the cube next to me.

Well, sick is sick. If you are too sick to work you can’t come to work, no matter how it was caused.

Now, it does show pretty bad judgment, but I don’t think my judgment on my off hours is really my bosses business. Yeah, being away from work affects performance. But on the other hand, I earned my sick hours precisely for times when I am I sick. I’m sick. I don’t know that it needs to go any further than that.

In short, if this was a common or re-occurring thing, yeah it’d be bad. But a one-off? We all make dumb choices now and then.