Pin Me

Can You Get Fired for Being Sick?

written by: theMallorys•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/11/2010

There are many circumstances where you can get fired for being sick. Learn about the exceptions to this, and how to increase your chances of keeping your job.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Too Sick to Work?

    man in bed 1 

    If it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to return to work for some time due to an illness, you might ask, “Can you get fired for being sick?" Your doctor may insist that you stay home to recover, and your employer may ask you to stay away from the job site if your presence could spread illness or disease to your co-workers. When you don’t have a choice, it can be frustrating to face the possibility of losing your job. The employer does have a right to fire you for being sick, as long as it’s not related to a pregnancy.

  • slide 2 of 4

    United States Federal Family and Medical Leave Act

    Federal laws in the United States provide some protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which may prevent your employer from firing you for being sick. Not every employee or employer is covered. You would have to work for your employer for at least 12 months and for an additional 1,250 hours prior to the time that you ask your boss for sick leave. The employer has to have at least 50 employees, and meet other requirements. Under the federal FMLA, the answer to the question “Can you get fired for being sick?" depends on how serious the sickness is. The employer cannot fire you without being guilty of wrongful termination if the illness:

    • Requires you to be hospitalized
    • Involves multiple treatments
    • Is related to taking time off to birth a child

    Your employer must provide up to 12 weeks time off, but your employer is not required to pay you. The employer has a right and often will require proof from a physician that one of these conditions applies to your situation. States have their own version of FMLA, and it’s important to consult with an attorney or do your own research to see how your home state’s laws modify or add to the federal FMLA.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Yes, You Can Get Fired

    If FMLA doesn’t cover your sickness, you can get fired. The employer has a right to expect your labor, and when you’re not there, the employer loses time and money. You do have some options that will help you survive employment termination, though. For example, an employer may fire you but offer you a severance package, if you’ve been with the company for some time. The money and benefits may be enough to hold you over until you recover and find another job.

    The employer may even hire you at a later date, depending on the circumstances, the history of your relationship and how you responded to the firing. It’s also a good idea to save enough money to last you three months when you’re working, just in case you do get fired. You won’t have to panic about paying the bills as you’re recovering from an illness.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Although the answer to the question “Can you get fired for being sick?" is yes, you still have to protect your health. If you truly are unable to return to work, do the best you can to help your employer see that your request for time off is legitimate and necessary. If you do get fired and FMLA doesn’t apply, focus on recovery first, and then find another job.

    Image Credit: Pop Catalin