Can My Job Fire Me for Being Sick?
It’s a legitimate question — and one that too many workers have faced. As workers cope with the growing prevalence of COVID-19, the answer is more important than ever.
Know Your Rights
The primary answer to this question is an emphatic no. In the US, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 protects employees from being fired due to illness. This law applies to companies with 50 or more employees and provides certain rights to employees who suffer from a serious health condition (which includes many forms of contagious illness).
What FMLA Does
The FMLA offers the following protections for employees who become ill:
- Job Protections: Employees are given up to 12 weeks of job protection and the same or equivalent job upon return from leave.
- Health Insurance: Employers are required to maintain employees’ health insurance during the leave.
- Pay: Paid leave is not required, but can be offered by employers.
A Word of Caution
Despite the protections offered by the FMLA, workers may still find themselves facing unfair termination. Employers may resort to less obvious methods to fire sick employees, such as reducing hours or changing job duties, and it’s important for employees to be aware of their rights and seek legal advice if they believe they are being treated unfairly.
The bottom line is that your job should not fire you for being sick. In many cases, the protections of the FMLA can help ensure you can return to work with the same rights you had before you got sick.