When can my employer fire me?

Recently on our forum a user ask if they can be taken off the schedule or fired because they missed work. Attendance is a basic requirement of most job positions. For this reason if you miss too much work due to a sick family member or your own health conditions your employee may have the legal right to terminate your employment. Exceptions exist, however, if your leave is protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or workers' compensation laws.

Who is protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Certain employees are covered by The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows certain employees to take "unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons." Not all employees are covered by FMLA. In fact, to be covered you must work for a "private employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer." You can also work for certain public agencies.

You must also meet specific criteria. For instance, if you have worked a few months at McDonalds and work only 20 hours per week and start missing too much work, expect to be dropped from the schedule or fired. If, however, you have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and you have 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave, you might be covered.

Protected if you are injured on the job

Another reason a worker might miss work is due to an injury they received on the job while performing their normal job responsibilities. If you have been injured on the job it is likely your employer will not only have to pay for your medical bills and give you some type of wage while you are recovering, they are also not allowed to fire or discipline you for making a workers' compensation claim. So if your missed employment is due to a work injury, you should be protected against firing.
Protected if you have a disability

If you have a disability which is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) you may also be protected from termination from your employer. The employer will also be barred from discriminating against you for your condition.
The specifics of the ADA can be complicated, but generally it requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations to allow employees with disabilities to do their jobs."

Specifically, accommodations must be made if they are reasonable, they do not create undue hardship, and they are not expensive for the employer, relative to their company's size and resources. Talk to an employment lawyer if you believe your employer is not accommodating your disability.

Does my state offer any other types of protections?

Protections for employees vary by state. For instance, some states will offer more benefits and protections for mothers who have given birth or workers who are dealing with domestic violence issues. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about your state laws or if you believe your have been fired illegally.

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