Can I get fired by missing work due to an anxiety disorder?

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Can I get fired by missing work due to an anxiety disorder?

I have been diagnosed with panic disorder and have been on medication for several years. However, recent circumstances have involved me being off my regular medication and only taking something as needed. At work, I will have panic attacks and take my medicine but sometimes it is too late to stop the attack and I need to go home. I have also missed many days because of my anxiety. Can I be fired?

Asked on March 23, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Absent protection under the terms of an employment contract or union/collective bargaining agreement, a company is free to fire an at-will worker who misses too much work since attendance is a basic job requirement. in fact, an employee can be discharged for any reason or no reason at all. That having been said, such absences are also protected if: you have and use available PTO; the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act); workers' compensation laws; state paid sick leave laws. Additionally, you may have protection under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Under the ADA, an employer cannot discrminate against an employee due to a disability, although not every medical condition rises to this level. To be a disability, the condition must be a fully recognized medical condition that is beyond your control. Further, even if you have a legal disability, your employer is only required to provide "reasonable accomodations" if you ask for them. If there is no way to accomodate your anxiety disorder (especially since it appears to come on unexpectedly) and it is impacting your job in a significant way, then your employer may be been able to terminate you.
Note: If you have legitimate performance issues, you can be terminated for them regardless of your disability.


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