Company most likely can require sick worker to find replacement

Can They Do That?

Your Money

April 04, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

I'm a nurse who works a 12-hour flextime shift in a hospital. If my co-workers or I call in sick, the hospital requires us to find someone to cover for us. Is this legal?

"It's lawful," said employment lawyer Robert Lipman of Lipman & Plesur in Jericho, N.Y., who represents management and employees.

If you refused, what could your employer legally do? "It would not be unlawful for the hospital to fire her for that reason," Lipman said. Of course, that assumes you aren't covered by a union contract.

The company could also legally force you to work for less pay the following week if it notified you ahead of time, Lipman said.

But your company's policy is shortsighted, said employment lawyer Saul Zabell of Frank & Breslow in Farmingdale, N.Y., who also represents management and employees. Your hospital is unfairly shifting management's function of finding replacements onto nurses, Zabell said.

"It places an undue burden on employees to essentially do management's job of scheduling," Zabell said.

On the other hand, according to human resources consultant Peter Altuch, since your company accommodates you with flexible scheduling, you should return the favor by agreeing to find a replacement.

"Flexible work schedules are designed for the nurses' benefit," said Altuch, of Interactive Employment Training in Jericho, a human resources consulting firm. "There has to be some give and take."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at

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