Can an Employer Fire You for Being Sick?

You may have heard that an employer is free to fire an at-will employee for any reason at all, including missing too much work. After all, employees typically need to be at work to perform their jobs properly. However, California has strict laws in place in order to protect employees from being terminated in certain situations. Along with federal protections in certain situations, state laws can work to protect sick employees. To learn more, read on or speak with an Orange County employment lawyer experienced in California law.

Can You Get Fired For Being Sick

What Are the Federal Protections for Employees?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the ability to take up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period for any of the following reasons:

  • the birth of a child and to care for a new child within one year of birth
  • the placement of an adopted child or foster care child with an employee
  • to care for employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • any serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform essential job functions

Under the language of this law, employees who experience a serious health condition are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Employers who terminate workers who use the FMLA could be in violation of the law. Employees must be reinstated when the leave is over.

However, only employers that have at least 50 employees have to abide by the FMLA. Those terminated due to them taking their rightful time under the FMLA may have a legal claim for wrongful termination against the employer.

What Are the California Protections for Sick Employees?

Under California law, sick leave is mandatory. When an employee accrues paid sick leave, they can use it due to an illness. California sick leave can also be used for seeking a diagnosis, preventative care, or to seek treatment and safety planning related to sexual assault or domestic violence.

Employers in California cannot deny a worker’s right to use the sick time they have accrued, and they cannot retaliate against an employer for using their sick leave. An employee who is denied sick leave, retaliated against, or terminated because they use their sick leave may be able to file a lawsuit against their employer. Aside from termination, retaliation for using sick leave could look include the following:

  • demotions
  • reduction in pay
  • threatening an employee
  • threatening to fire the employee
  • threatening to report immigration violations

Anyone who has been terminated or retaliated against based on paid sick leave or another protected leave should seek assistance from a California labor and employment lawyer regarding their case.

Company Policies

Individual companies will also have their own policies regarding sick leave, and many companies do offer more sick leave time than allow requires. In most cases, employers are required to stick with the sick leave outlined in their policies.

What Type of Compensation Is Available in These Cases?

There are various types of compensation that may be available for workers who have been terminated or retaliated against for using sick leave. This could include the following:

  • back pay
  • payment for any sick days withheld by the employer
  • administrative penalties
  • any interest on back pay
  • pain and suffering damages
  • attorney fees and court costs

To thoroughly understand your rights regarding sick leave, retaliation, and termination, seek assistance from a skilled California labor law attorney as soon as possible.