Can an Employer Fire You When the Doctor Has Taken You off Work?

There are protections under law if you need to take time off from work for medical reasons.
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Life can bring unexpected upsets that may drag down your ability to work. When it has to do with a serious medical condition that strikes you, your spouse, your child, or a parent, you may need to stop work. If it has to do with your own health, your doctor may request that you take off from work. Under such circumstances, your employer still has to function without you, but that does not necessarily mean you will be fired for having to take time off from work temporarily.

Medical Leave

    Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you are entitled to take leave for medical reasons. That includes for the birth of a child, adoption, post pregnancy, recovery from a serious health condition or to care for an ill spouse, child or a parent. The FMLA applies to employers that have more than 50 employees. As an employee, you also must meet eligibility requirements, such as having worked with the employer for at least 12 months full-time or for 1,250 hours during the past 12 months as a part-time worker.

Time of Return

    Your right to take leave under FMLA can protect your job until you return, but it also comes with obligations. FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks off without pay. After that, your employer is no longer obligated to hold your position for you or to offer you another position at equal pay and benefits as when you left. As an employee, you must give a 30-day notice before taking leave. The only exception to this is when you are dealing with an emergency that was unforeseeable. The job protection does not include circumstances such as company layoffs that may occur as a result of natural business operations. If your department or position would have been eliminated with you present, it can be eliminated while you are on leave.

Sick Days

    A common benefit offered by employers to its workers is sick days. If your doctor takes you off work for medical reasons, you may use your sick days to cover the time you need off from work. In some instances, employers may require you to use all of your sick days, which is some cases are time off that is paid, prior to the enforcement of FMLA. Your employer also has the right to request that you provide verification from your doctor that you are not able to work for medical reasons. Some employers use "company doctors" to get second opinions on your health.

Americans with Disabilities Act

    When your medical condition falls beyond the scope of the FMLA and you have a permanent physical or mental impairment, there is protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. For a condition included under the ADA, your employer must also offer unpaid leave that is reasonably accommodating of your disability circumstances. While the employer has to offer, at minimum, a uniformly applied leave policy, when you fall under the protection of ADA, you may request for a modification to the policy that is a "reasonable accommodation" that would not impose an undue hardship on the employer. For instance, there have been cases where employees have been granted 15 months leave under ADA and requested two additional months leave on top of that for further cancer treatment. Reasonable accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis.

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