What are my rights regarding wrongful termination?

Recently, I was fired after being back to work for 3 weeks from an extended time off under FMLA. I was taking care of my mother who had cancer and subsequently passed away. I had been out previously due to stress and anxiety because of the situation and received medical help that I have documented. On returning to work, I had been placed on medication for anxiety. If I don’t eat properly the medication can make me pass out due to low potassium levels. One evening at work this happened to me and my husband was called to get me. I was then suspended and ultimately fired. They had an investigation which I was told they suspected me of drinking alcohol. I had been through a program in the past and some employees knew this, so there were rumors that I drank at work. It is false and I don’t know what to do. I’ve worked for this company 11 years.

Asked on September 7, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

What you describe is probably not wrongful termination. You cannot be terminated for *having* a medical condition, but you can be terminated for what you do at work, including passing out because you have not eaten or managed your medicine properly. If you pass out at work, you not only disrupt the workplace, but you potentially expose your employer to liability, since one could easily imagine if that you fell and, say, struck your head causing serious injury or death, that your family might try to sue. Your employer is not required to subject itself to that sort of disruption and potential liability, and so you can likely can be terminated for passing out at work.
However, while, as stated this could well be a case of lawful termination for your workplace behavior, that is not an open-and-shut case: it's not impossible a government agency or a court could conclude that should have accommodated you by not terminating you for this occurence. It is very much in your interest to contact the federal EEOC and/or your state equal/civil rights agency to see if you can file a complaint for disability-related discrimination: it costs you nothing, and could gain you very much. Just be prepared that nothing might come of it.


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