my boss sends me work to do when I’m out sick

A reader asks:

I work for the finance department of a nonprofit. Whenever I call/email in sick, I receive multiple emails from my boss (on my work email) asking me to complete tasks as though I am in the office — things like making lunch reservations, printing off documents for him, fixing something on his computer, etc. I have to send him multiple messages for him to finally understand that I’m out sick.

When I don’t check my work email when I’m out sick, he complains or blames me ​if something doesn’t get taken care of in time, like lunch reservations for that same day. This is the same boss who forgot that I was out on vacation over the holidays and scolded me for not having an out of office message (which with our email system only gets sent out the first time you email someone who’s out), when in fact I did. He just forgot and thought I just wasn’t responding to him.

He seems to get upset whenever I’m out of the office, and I’ve actually started going in when I’m sick or injured and should probably stay home. I’ve even gone in against medical advice when I was having severe back problems because I knew it would almost be worse if I stayed home.

I really need this job right now, and I’m worried that he’ll get upset enough to fire me even though I’m not in the red on my sick time, and I still have my projects completed on time. How do I get him to respect my sick time?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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