Sick days, unlike vacation days, are paid days off for unexpected absences. Vacation or “paid time off” is schedule with HR and coordinated with your team. Sick days are unexpected and come up when you get sick. Many employers give their employees an allotted amount of sick days but what happens if you take those days? Can you be fired? What if you exceed your sick days? This post will go over sick days and your right to take them.

Unfortunately, the United States is an “at will” country. That means, absent a contract and a few exceptions, you can get fired for any reason and quit for any reason (or no reason). Your employer does not need to be fair or state a justification, even if she fires you for taking a sick day. So yes, you can get fired for taking a sick day.

That being said, most employers give their employees “handbooks.” The handbook does form the basis of an employment contract, that could lay out specific rights to sick days. If you are promised a set of paid sick days, you are theoretically permitted to take them. But, like anything in the workplace, you need to be careful when and how you take your sick days. For example, don’t take a sick day before a major presentation. You send the wrong message to your team and supervisors, especially if you drop the work on someone else. Making an effort goes a long way toward building good will, which you will need if you get debilitatingly sick.

Taking a sick day sounds like a constitutional right. But some unscrupulous employers will always try to take advantage of their employees, especially if you let them. It isn’t fair but sometimes the only person who cares about your rights is you (and your lawyer). If you believe you were retaliated against for taking a sick day to which you were entitled, you should call a lawyer at your earliest convenience. An attorney can help you prepare legal arguments to ensure that you receive just compensation for the indignity that you suffered.