Is terminating someone due to a medical condition legal?

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Is terminating someone due to a medical condition legal?

I’m epileptic and had a seizure at home about a month ago. I went to the hospital and got checked out; everything was fine. It has been 10 years since my last seizure. I let my employer know what happened and that I needed a couple days off but that there were no problems. The only restriction I had when I came back was that I couldn’t drive a vehicle for 6 months. Well my job is very driving intensive, so they said that they’d work with me in finding an office position in the company where I wouldn’t have to drive. Well fast forward to today; I went into work and my manager told me that they were letting me go. The only reason I got is that they just don’t have a place in the company for someone who can’t drive for 6 months. However, they said that I can re-apply when I’m able to drive again. Is this legal? This is an at-will employer.

Asked on July 3, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

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

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Employers must make what is know as a "reasonable accomodation", which is means in the case of a current employee who has a quaifying disability, modifying their job duties so that they can remain working. However, if such an adjustment would create an "undue burden" on the employer, then the employee need not be accomodoated. In other words, if they can no longer perform the job that they have, they can be terminated. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Yes, they can let you go if you can't do your job: while employers must make a "reasonable accommodation" to employee medical issues, that is some change or assistance that lets the employee do his/her current job safely. The employer is not required to give the employee a different job is he/she cannot do the one he/she had. You write that your job is very driving intensive but that you cannot drive; therefore you can't do your job. The employer does not need to pay you for not working or give you a different job (especially if they don't really have any available); they may legally terminate you.


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