Can My Employer Fire Me for Getting Sick?

Employer Fire me for getting sick
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This is probably one of the top three most commonly asked questions at employment and labor law offices. The concern is that a person may become ill or have an injury that takes him or her away from work. Maybe you broke your leg at home or came down with the flu three times in one year. It is bad luck, for sure, but most people do not consider these things reasonable grounds for terminating employment. After all, you really cannot help getting sick, and you certainly do not want others contracting your illness. So, what does the law say about this age-old question?

At Five Points Law Group, our labor law attorneys frequently help clients who have been discriminated against or unlawfully terminated. Give us a call if you need help.


How Big is Your Employer?

If your employer has fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, then you have no protections under FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). For those with larger employers, FMLA allows them the ability and the right to take off up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical conditions that prevent them from working. Here is how FMLA works:

  • You must have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 12 months
  • Your employer can require you to use all paid time off (including vacation and sick time) before using unpaid FMLA time OR require to use all paid time off concurrently with your FMLA leave
  • You can take time for your own medical conditions or to care for a child, spouse, or other family member who needs your care
  • The condition is considered “serious,” as defined by FMLA
  • Special rules apply for service members

Sadly, new employees are rarely allowed to take FMLA leave because of the 12-month rule. However, if you are in-demand and your employer would have trouble replacing you, it may be worth negotiating this issue a bit to see if they will be flexible.


Do You Suffer from a Recognized Disability?

If you suffer from a diagnosed medical condition that is considered a disability, you may qualify for limited protections under the federal ADA law (Americans with Disabilities Act). Again, however, this only applies to employers with more than 15 employees. Yes, it covers a wider range of employees, but there are a lot of small businesses in Alabama that simply are not required to comply.

If you are covered, your employer must make “reasonable accommodations” for you to be absent in order to seek disability-related medical care. The ADA requires that the employee start the conversation about a request for a reasonable accommodation, which may include questions related to the following:

  • Appointments to get prosthetic devices fitted
  • Rehabilitation or speech, occupational, or physical therapy appointments
  • Medical appointments
  • Surgical or outpatient procedures
  • Hospitalizations
  • Occasional and reasonably anticipated recovery times (chemotherapy, time after a surgery, etc.)

There are complex rules that govern when a condition stops being covered by the ADA and when a procedure or hospitalization may require FMLA protections.

If you suspect that your employer is covered by these laws and is intentionally denying you the right to seek medical care, exercise your rights under federal law, or is refusing to make reasonable accommodations for a disability, call Five Points law Group today.

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