Getting fired from work when you're sick or caring for a loved one can put your finances in jeopardy and risk ongoing medical care. But it is legal for your employer to fire you when you're under a doctor's care in circumstances that do not violate laws relating to discrimination, worker's compensation or the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Worker's Compensation Cases
It's very difficult for an employer to fire you while you're receiving care for a work-related injury. The federal government and every state across the country have laws designed to protect you from your employer's retaliatory actions resulting from your assertion of your legal rights. These laws do not directly stop your employer from firing you, but the laws do provide you with immediate legal recourse including the right to seek lost wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages from your employer in civil court.
General Medical Care
Technically speaking, receiving prescription medication from a doctor for an infection or other illness means you are under that doctor's care. Your employer may terminate you at any time regardless of the status of your illness. Your employer may do this because at-will employment laws in your state allow it. At-will employment laws are in place for every state in the country except Montana. These regulations permit an employer or employee to end a working relationship at any time without notice. Company personnel regulations may restrict your employer's ability to fire you if you provide proof of your illness, including a doctor's note.
If an illness causes you to miss work past your available sick days it may put your employment in jeopardy. An employer is within her rights to terminate your employment if you cannot show up for work on a reliable basis. Termination from work could end any employment-related health care you are receiving. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you to continue receiving your health care benefits for up to 18 months after you lose your job. The downside is that you have to pay the total cost of this health care without the affordability of a group health care plan.
Family and Medical Leave Act
It is illegal for an employer to fire you if you leave work under the conditions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA allows you to leave work for up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period for a medical procedure or illness including the birth of a child, a serious health condition or to care for a sick spouse or immediate family member. Your employer must have your position available to you when you return from this leave.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.