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Am I Legally Required to Approve Doctor Appointments?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

There's always that employee -- the one that tells you last-minute about a doctor's appointment, or schedules one when he has no more paid time off. It's usually during a busy time, too.

Before you respond and decline the request, stop and think about the situation. Ask yourself whether you are legally required to give that employee time off for a doctor's appointment.

In some circumstances, you may have to.

What Does Your Employee Handbook Say?

If you don't want to give an employee time off for a doctor's appointment, the first place you should look is the employee handbook or employment contract. Do either documents require you to approve the request? Or can you deny it?

If you think you can deny the request, think again. There are always exceptions to the rule.

You may be obligated under the Family and Medical Leave Act to approve the request. Covered employers must allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Some employees with serious conditions are also entitled to unpaid doctor visits.

Making Reasonable Accommodations

If an employee is disabled, you may be required to make a reasonable accommodation. You don't have to provide more PTO, but you may have to allow more unpaid personal days. You may also have to approve some last-minute appointments.

Speaking of which, if any employee's medical appointment is urgent, it's probably best to just to let the employee use his vacation days or go unpaid. But don't forget to request a doctor's note stating that the appointment actually occurred. It's not okay for an employee to request time off for a doctor's appointment and then go to the beach.

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