Can an Employer Fire Someone for Being Sick?

Submitted by rachel on Fri, 04/15/2022 - 15:00

Most employment relationships are based on a legal principle called at-will employment. This type of employment relationship allows both employers and employees to end an employment relationship at any time and for any reason. For example, an employer can terminate a worker to save money on labor costs. On the other hand, an employee can quit a job without giving notice.

However, employers can violate a law by terminating an employee. Federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protect workers against acts of wrongful termination.

What Laws Protect Employees from Getting Fired for Being Sick?

Employees receive protection against wrongful termination by referring to one of several laws passed at the federal level


Your employer cannot terminate an employee who is covered by the FMLA. Passed by the United States Congress in 1993, the FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work over a period of 12 months if they meet the guidelines established by the federal law. For instance, a worker can take off work to care for a newborn, as well as to recover from a serious health condition. If any employee requires time off to care for a family member who suffers from a serious medical condition, the worker has the right to use the FMLA to take time off from work.


Another type of wrongful termination involves a worker who lives with a disability. Two federally enacted laws cover disabilities in the workplace. First, Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against workers that have a disability. In 1990, the United States Congress passed the ADA to strengthen the legal protections written into Title VII. One of the most important provisions of the ADA is requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled workers.

Workers’ Compensation

Nearly every state requires private sector employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, which represents a type of insurance that helps employers pay for the injuries caused by accidents in the workplace. If you sustained one or more injuries on the job and your employer fires you for submitting a workers’ compensation claim, your employer has committed an act of wrongful termination.

States such as California and Massachusetts have enacted laws that mandate employers to offer paid sick days for employees.

When Can You Be Fired for Being Sick?

If you claim to be sick and request time off to recover, you can expect your employer to ask for proof the illness forced you out of work for a few days. If you cannot submit the evidence requested by your employer, your employer might fire you for lying about being sick. Taking too much time off also might be a reason for your employer to justifiably terminate the employment relationship. Employers establish attendance policies, which include the procedure for calling in sick.

Contact a Wrongful Termination Attorney

If your employer terminates the employment relationship and you believe the reason involved being sick, you might have a strong enough case to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. Hiring a wrongful termination lawyer may help you gather evidence, as well as file a lawsuit before the state-established deadline,

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