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Can an Employee be Fired for Medical Reasons

hipaavOne of the top questions that employees ask is whether they can be fired for medical reasons. The reality is that everybody gets sick, including young children and family members, and in today’s day and age, the sad truth is that many employees are afraid to take medical leave in fear that they will be fired. And frequently, employees who are taking medical leave lawfully are fired for medical reasons, which can be unlawful.

If you have been fired for medical reasons or are worried you might be fired for medical reasons, check out our tips below. If you need help, give us a call at 213-403-0130 for a free confidential consultation today.

Can an Employer Fire an Employee for Medical Reasons

Generally the law is California and every other state is that employment is “at-will.” This means that an employer can let an employee go for any reason, at any time, and there does not even have to be a reason for being let go. Employees and employers can end their employment relationship for absolutely no reason at all or for any reason except illegal ones like discrimination or those protected by federal or state laws. If your employee is fired for medical reasons, it will depend on the facts of your case whether it is within the employer’s right to do so.

For example, an employer can fire an employee if they are violating company policies or failing to meet deadlines or goals of their position. However, if an adverse employment action occurs because the employee has a medical condition, medical disability, or other medical reason for not being at work, being absent, taking me time, and needing time off from work, the employee can be protected by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Laws, as well as other laws.

California Law Protects Employees with Medical Conditions

California law protects employees from receiving adverse employment actions for medical reasons. An “adverse employment action” can be a demotion, pay cut, hour cut, failure to promote, termination, layoff, or otherwise be let go. The definition of “medical condition”   in California is very broad:virtually numerous types of illnesses, stress, anxiety, insomnia, sleeplessness, heart conditions, maternity, psychological conditions, as well as broken bones, spinal injuries, ergonomic/overuse injuries, high blood pressure, and other conditions can be argued constitute a “medical condition” requiring special handling by the employer.

The common scenario is as follows: the employee has to take medical time off to deal with a specific medical condition or dealing with a medical condition of a loved one, and misses work and is unable to complete projects on time. The employer then becomes resentful and piles on even more work and in essence, tries to get the worker to quit or give up. The employee, already behind, falls even further behind, and may miss deadlines and failed to complete projects on time. It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the employee missing performance metrics. The employer then fires the employee for failing to perform properly.

This scenario is all too common. every day, employees wrongfully terminated for “performance reasons” when their performance has really nothing to do with the reason they are being let go. It is easy to say a termination is based on “performance reason,” when it is directly the product of the employers’  actions in piling on more work than any person can reasonably handle.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

In addition to California law, federal law protects employees from being fired when they are taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks within a 12 month period for reasons such as for the birth of a child, a serious medical condition preventing him or her to perform their job duties, or to care for a close family member with a serious medical condition. This law has limitations but if an employee is out of work under this Act, the employer cannot fire him or her.

How to Tell if You were Fired for Medical Reasons

If you are an employee reading this article, chances are that you’re trying to determine whether you have rights and whether your rights of been violated after being let go for medical reasons. This generally requires evaluating the facts of your case to determine whether there is an overlap in the timing between the medical issues and the adverse employment actions. For example, below is a great example of the case that appear strongly to be motivated by harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination based on medical condition:

  • Employee catches pneumonia and must take two weeks off to get better
  • Employer has to shuffle around due to employees missed time
  • After two weeks, the employee returns and finds a pile of work on his or her desk
  • The employer makes a change that negative affects the employee. This can take a variety of forms and variations:
    • Shortly after the employee returns, the employer shifts the employee’s responsibilities and makes the employee responsible for greater amount of work
    • The employer changes the employees reporting structure to make the employee report to a supervisor known to be a hardass or who has a reputation for making people quit
    • The employer rearranges the employees schedule to assign the most undesirable hours of work and schedule
    • The employer cuts the employees pay or hours
    • The employer creates a general climate of hostility, where the employee feels extremely uncomfortable at work, and work becomes a source of  great stress
  • Overwhelmed, the employee cannot handle all the work being assigned by the employer
  • The employer then issues a written notice or rights of the employee for poor performance
  • The employee feels as though they are trapped and are on the verge of being fired, making it even more difficult to perform well
  • The employer then fires the employee for poor performance

As indicated above, these scenarios happen every day. Many employers are skillful enough to document the employee’s file in a very creative way to make it seem as though the employee is a problem employee, when the reality is that it is an unlawful termination. To assess whether he you were let go from lawful reasons, including medical reasons, get legal help today.

Getting Legal Help

Getting assistance and determining whether you were let go for an improper reason, such as medical condition, is fast and easy. Call Axis Legal Council today and ask for a free consultation, and we will be glad to go over the essential facts of the case with you to determine whether the claim is worth pursuing and investigating further. Calls often do not take more than 10 or 15 minutes, and can give you peace of mind as to whether an additional investigation should be performed, and when a potential legal violation may have occurred. There is no risk and no charge for calling Axis for a free consultation.

readreviewssgAXIS Legal Counsel is a labor and employment law firm representing clients in a variety of labor and employment issues, including the requirements of California’s labor laws.  AXIS Legal Counsel is experienced in the field of employment and labor law and focused on providing high-quality legal service. For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel for any labor or  employment matter, contact [email protected] or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation, or visit our Employee’ Rights Practice Area, or Individual Rights Portal.

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