This question should be asked of all three parties involved: the patient, employer and doctor. For us doctors, there are clear and severe penalties for falsifying certain medical documents related to legal or insurance matters and no specific rules about what we can and cannot write on a "note for work." After all, we are our patients' advocates, and as physicians we are all willing to lend a helping hand.
But be careful when you affix your signature to a "doctor's note" to consider that it may, through a convoluted series of unpredictable events — perhaps involving a case of alleged age discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace — end up on the six o'clock news for all to see (including the Office of Professional Misconduct). As we all know, the road to perdition is paved with good intentions.The "yes" position
Cosmetic surgery is a discretionary expenditure as well as a discretionary absence from work.
Recovery time may not seem, at first blush, equal to an illness leading to absenteeism, but it is almost always the choice of the employee and not an absolute medical decision whether or not to call in sick. Most employees choose to stay home with the common cold or flu because they're not feeling quite well enough to go to work or they don't wish to infect their coworkers, or a combination of both.
After cosmetic surgery, the employee certainly does not feel well enough to return to work and they may not infect but they would affect their coworkers (with their appearance). Are catching a cold and having a face lift equal? Of course not, but there may be similarities in the reasons a patient might not want to go to work due to either.
Is it the case that cosmetic surgery is voluntary and catching a cold is not? How many of us have kissed a loved one who had a cold knowing full well we could or would contract the virus? Since we chose to get close to the infected person, do we relinquish our right to stay home from work? Every time we choose to fly commercially, spend a few days skiing, drive too fast, we are consciously putting ourselves at risk for an incident that would keep us out of work.
Cosmetic surgery is an event in many peoples' lives that happens to require time off from work. If we must use our sick days for recovery time, then for the rest of the year, we may have to come to work even if we feel a bit ill. That is each individual's choice.
No, not acceptable
Taking time off from work is the right of every employee.
Most employers offer a certain number of paid sick days and paid personal days. If a cosmetic surgery patient uses personal days to recover, then so be it — but don't come back for more paid personal days when you have to close on a mortgage, fly to your niece's wedding or take your dog to the veterinarian for surgery. Furthermore, sick days are for sickness — unexpected, unplanned, unscheduled viral, bacterial, chlamydial illness.
Using them for something else may be as common as cheating on taxes but that doesn't make it right. Taking sick days off for cosmetic surgery is like asking your employer to pay for some of your surgery — not a conventional fringe benefit. If you need time to recover from your facelift, do what you would have your children do for their rhinoplasty — book it right before your vacation. You can then recover with no guilt or worse, the inevitable paranoia that, when you return to work, your boss might wonder how your difficult battle with bronchitis got rid of your sagging neck or lifted your breasts.