Is it legal for an employer to fire an employee due to health issues?

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Is it legal for an employer to fire an employee due to health issues?

I have a couple of heart conditions, and my employer fired me due to missing a few days of work, even though I had a doctors note which my employer had requested. Do I have any recourse?

Asked on February 16, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First of all, a doctor's note is not legally binding on an employer. Further, as a general rule, a company is free to fire an at-will employee who misses too much work since a basic job requirement is attendance. That having been said, your absences are protected if any of the following apply: the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act); the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act); workers' compensation laws; state paid sick leave laws; or if you had available PTO that you used to cover your time off. Otherwise, absent protection under the terms of a union/collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, your employer was free to set the conditions of employment much as it saw fit.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, you do not have a recourse, based on what you have written: you were not fired for health issues, you were fired for absenteeism. The law does not let an employee miss work, even for health reasons, unless he/she uses paid time off (e.g. sick days) he/she earned, or was eligible for and used FMLA leave. Otherwise, it is an unauthorized absence and the employee may be terminated. The doctor's note does not have any authority or power over the employer.


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