Sick Pay - Paid Sick Leave
You might be surprised to learn that, in the absence of an employment agreement that indicates otherwise, your employee rights likely do not automatically entitle you to sick pay.
That's because, at this writing, only six municipalities and two states have passed laws requiring employers to provide sick leave benefits to employees, whether paid or not.*
In fact, nearly 75 percent of low-wage workers in the U.S. do not have sick leave benefits either with or without pay, while about 43 percent of all U.S. workers do not have paid sick leave benefits. As with many traditional benefits, providing sick pay is voluntary for employers.
But some employers have traditionally provided paid sick leave anyway, to attract new and retain current employees. Some of those employers also voluntarily include accrued sick pay in employees' final paychecks, as incentive to reduce sick-leave abuse.
Under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), your employee rights might entitle you to take leave to care for yourself or family members, without losing your job or benefits. However, the Act does not require your employer to issue sick pay to you while you're on FMLA leave.
If your employer does provide a traditional sick pay benefit to the group of employees of which you're part, then you are generally entitled to it if you follow the rules. Because it's generally a voluntary benefit, your employer may stipulate the rules of paid sick leave, such as in an employee policy manual.
For example, to receive your sick pay, your employer is likely entitled to require you by policy to submit a written excuse from a doctor for missing work.
If you violate a paid sick leave policy, then your employer is likely entitled to deprive you of sick pay and worse, maybe even fire you. However, the courts typically consider all factors involved, to decide whether or not employers really had good cause to fire employees for company policy violation. See an attorney about that.
Read About Employee Benefits for information regarding avenues of relief, should your employer deprive you of the sick pay or any other employee benefit to which you're rightfully entitled.
Update: President Obama signed an Executive Order on September 7 (Labor Day), 2015, that requires certain government contractors and subcontractors to allow their employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year.