Sick Days

Some of you have been wondering about the whereabouts of our colleague, Elie Mystal. As several of you have noticed, he hasn’t written for these pages since last Tuesday.

No, Elie’s not still on vacation. Unfortunately, he’s on sick leave: he has been bedridden since Tuesday with tonsillitis and an acute sinus infection.

Either he’ll be back at work soon, or we’ll be reporting on one hell of a med mal suit. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Every so often a lawyer with a small firm will ask me what to do about providing employees with paid sick days. The practice is much more common in large firms, but many lawyers have come to expect it as a perk no matter how big their firms are. (To be clear, I’m talking about paid-time-off policies, not legally required unpaid leave like the Family and Medical Leave Act.) Many larger firms allow their employees to accumulate and bank their leave, saving it up for a rainy day, as it were. Some have the days expire after a certain time, while others allow the days to survive until the end of an employee’s tenure.

That’s fine at large, wealthy firms, who can well afford to pay people not to work. But what about small firms, where a person’s absence is more likely to have an impact? How many days of paid sick leave should a small law firm’s policy permit?

My answer might surprise you. Not ten days a year. Not five. Not even three.

Zero. Small law firms shouldn’t have a policy of any days of paid sick leave a year.

But before you set your comment phasers to “kill,” give me a chance to explain.…

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