Can Your Employer Fire You For a Health Reason?

Employees who take time off work due to medical conditions might worry about the possibility of losing their job, which may be justified due to past employer behavior. Some companies may try to terminate employees who are injured or sick. However, there are laws in place for the purpose of protecting employees in these situations. If you think that you may have lost your job as the result of a medical problem, then it’s important to take the time to get familiar with your rights.

What Laws are in Place?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law requiring employers to allow medical leave to employees who are covered in certain circumstances. Eligible employees may receive health-insurance-protected, job-protected, and unpaid leave for twelve working weeks in a twelve-month period.  Some circumstances that are covered include a serious health condition, the birth and care of a newborn baby or adopted child, and taking time off to care for a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition. Another federal legislation to be aware of is the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on physical or mental impairments that restrict their lives. This act may also apply to non-disability medical conditions. If you believe that your employer may have broken either of these laws when firing you, employment lawyers like Baird Quinn can help.

State Laws

Some states also have laws that mandate employers pay their employees when on sick leave. Some cities also have laws passed to mandate this, including San Francisco, New York City, and Portland. Employees in these jurisdictions that have accrued sick leave can use sick days without issues, and it is against the law for employers to take any retaliatory action against workers who choose to use their sick days. In some cases, workers’ compensation insurance may also be involved when health conditions are directly related to the employees’ job. States will handle workers’ compensation in line with their own laws, but all states have made it illegal for companies to terminate or discipline an employee for bringing a claim.

Termination Due to Health Issues

Despite all of the laws in place, it is still possible for many companies to terminate an employee for health reasons. In many US states, the ‘employment at will’ policy guides most decision-making, which allows an employer to fire an employee for almost any reason except when it is against the law. It is illegal to fire an employee who is on FMLA leave or still able to perform their job functions if reasonable accommodations are made for them. It is illegal for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace if an employee would be able to return to work with these accommodations made. This can make the situation difficult, as employers may state another reason to legally fire somebody with a health issue.

Speaking to an employment lawyer is the best option if you are in this situation.

While there are laws and legislation in place to protect employees with health issues and disabilities, ‘employment at will’ means that there is still a risk that employees affected by medical issues may be terminated.