Can You Get Fired From Work if You Have Medical Conditions?

by Mary Tucker-McLaughlin; Updated September 26, 2017
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Termination of employment occurs due to one of two things: performance or downsizing. Employers consider attendance as an important component of performance. After all, if you're not there, you can't do your job. In some cases, you may have a medical condition that causes you to be absent from work. Qualifying employees who work for a covered employer and are eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, may be able to apply for up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Established in 1993, the FMLA protects the jobs qualifying employees if they suffer a serious illness or their close family member suffers an illness requiring their care. Employers who employ 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius must provide FMLA leave to eligible employees. To qualify for FMLA, an employee must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the past 12 months. The employee must also have a condition that qualifies for FMLA or have a close family member including a spouse, child or parent with such a condition. Only serious and chronic health conditions are covered under the medical portion of FMLA. Family leave is also available for up to 12 weeks for the birth or care of a newborn, adoption of a child or foster care of a child.

Serious and Chronic Conditions

Serious conditions, as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act, include illnesses that last three or more consecutive days and require a doctor's treatment. Hospital, hospice and other medical facility stays are also covered. Chronic health conditions may also qualify for FMLA. These conditions also require a doctor's care. Examples of chronic health conditions include diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and cancer, although there are hundreds of conditions considered as chronic. Employers, especially in larger organizations, often require a physician's statement to verify the amount of leave needed for recovery.

Certified Physician's Statements

Employees need to notify their employers immediately of any type of medical condition that may interfere with their ability to come to work. Employers must then notify employees of their FMLA rights including the amount of leave available at that time, plus any documents that need completion. At this point, your employer may request that you provide a certified physician's statement. The minimum amount of time to return the physician's statement is 15 days. Employers may allow more time at their discretion. Failure to provide required paperwork may result in denial of FMLA leave.

Termination based on Excessive Absences

If you work for an employer not covered by FMLA, or you are not covered by FMLA, excessive absences can result in termination of employment. Excessive absence is a valid reason for termination if your employer has a non-discriminatory attendance policy. Employees who do not qualify for FMLA due to length of employment or who do not have a qualifying condition under FMLA guidelines may risk termination if the number of absences exceed the number allowed in their workplace. If you believe that you qualify for FMLA, but have your employer denied you, consult an attorney.

About the Author

As an educator, television producer and public relations/human resources professional, Mary Tucker-McLaughlin's work has been broadcast on radio and television with affiliates in the Midwest and the South since 1992. Her work has also been published in the "St. Louis Suburban Journals." Tucker-McLaughlin is an assistant professor in eastern North Carolina with a Ph.D. in mass communications from the University of South Carolina.

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