Using Sick Time to Pursue a Career Opportunity

By Paula Santonocito

Business NetworkingQ. I received a personal invitation from an industry leader to attend an event that offers great PR for my company and tremendous opportunity for my career. The career development piece is especially important to me because the company I’m working for isn’t doing well. The problem is my boss can’t see the value of the event. Since I have no vacation time left, is it alright if I use sick time to attend? And, if I do, can the company fire me?

A. The problem with your situation is that if you take sick time, your boss will know you are using the time to participate in an event the company hasn’t sanctioned. Obviously this would not endear you to the organization.

The question as to whether your employer could terminate you for misuse of sick time isn’t really at issue. In this climate, the company could decide they want to eliminate your job and point to economic conditions. If this were to happen, you could try and claim wrongful termination, but it would be really difficult to prove given the economic situation and the circumstances you describe.

What’s more, if your company’s policy states that sick time is to be used for personal illness or to care for a sick family member and the company can point to the fact that you weren’t sick (by showing that you were at the event), you wouldn’t even have a case. They could terminate you for violation of policy.

There actually seem to be much larger problems with your employment situation than whether to use sick days: Namely, why won’t your employer let you take advantage of a great PR opportunity for the company, and why is your boss reluctant to give you an opportunity that would not only further the company but allow for your career growth?

It’s time to ask your boss these questions or at least ask them of yourself.