What to do if I have been fired for missing too many days at work even though I have an existing medical illness that often leaves me sick and unable to work?

My boss knows about this condition and I am doing everything that the doctors say to try to help. I’m also in the union for painters and allied trades and didn’t know if they would be able to help me. I want to keep my job but don’t want to have to fight for it every time I get sick.

Asked on January 25, 2013 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, while the law does not let employers discriminate against employees due to disabilities, they are allowed to fire employees who cannot or do not show up to work, unless the absences are "covered" by--

1) the use of paid time off, like sick days;

2) the use of FMLA unpaid leave, assuming the company, the employee, the illness, and the absence all meet the criteria for the Family and Medical Leave Act (you can find these criteria at the U.S. Department of Labor's website); or

3) the employer approved the absences.

That's because while employers need to make "reasonable accomodations" to disabilities and certain  medical conditions, it is not a reasonable accommodation to be forced to allow an employee to miss work, other than as the above; employers are not required to retain employees who cannot or will not do their jobs.

Therefore, you may not have any recourse, unless there is some available under the terms of your union contract or agreement.

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