Dear MT community,

I just found out I need an operation and will have to go onto short-term disability for ~6 weeks.  I've never had to do anything like this before and wanted to garner input from the community on tips for managing this with my employer (my employer currently knows nothing).

A couple key questions come to mind:

1) When do I tell my employer?  I.e., how much notice do I give my employer relative to the date of the surgery? 

2) How do I tell my employer?  Boss first, I assume, and then HR?  Should I be equipped with my doctor's note before I have any such conversations?

3) Are there are considerations I should be making that I perhaps have not thought of?

4) What risks do I run, and how might I minimize them?  Is getting fired shortly after coming back a real possibility? (Wouldn't that potentially open up my employer to a lawsuit?)

Note, I have been at my job for ~18 months and have received positive, albeit not stellar, review.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful, generous input.




mattpalmer's picture

The answers to all your questions are predicated on one vital piece of information: whether you trust your boss, or the wider company, not to be a bunch of tools.  If you think they're the sort of people to treat someone who is going to be temporarily on disability poorly (either because you've seen them do it before to someone else, or they've made comments about people on disability, or are generally uncooperative with employees in general) then you should approach it very, very differently than if you think your boss and company are reasonable, rational people.

If your boss and company are reasonable, then my answers are:

1) As soon as possible.  No reason not to give them a heads-up of what's coming down the line as soon as you know.

2) Tell your boss, be guided by them as to who else you / your boss should be telling.

3) Your boss / HR will let you know of any paperwork and procedural things to take care of.  From your side, just handle it like you would any other planned, extended absence (like a holiday) -- make sure your loose ends are tied up or handed off, your boss is in the loop on all your projects and work, and so on.

4) You won't get fired soon after you return.  Only a crazy person would fire someone who's just come back to work from an illness.

Now if, on the other hand, your boss/company *are* crazy... well, all I can offer then are my commiserations.  I'd probably recommend talking to an employee-side employment attorney, because you'll want to follow the letter of the law to make sure you're covered, and then have someone immediately available to start firing lawyer bombs when things get ugly.  Or just use your downtime to find a new job, if you can, because life's too short to work for crazy people.

Drucker1900's picture


Thank you for your thoughtful response.  I am lucky in that my boss and company tend to be on the sane & rational end of the spectrum - certainly not crazy.  Despite that, I am a super conservative person when it comes to all things corporate, and will have the legal fire bombs ready should they be required, which I tend to think they won't.


Thank you again for your input.