Can I Be Fired Because of a Medical Condition?
| Read Time: 3 minutes | Disability Discrimination

Your employer generally cannot fire you because of a medical condition. If you have a medical condition, illness, or disability that prevents you from working on a temporary basis, all employers with more than five employees are required to try to accommodate you. In certain circumstances, the law also protects you if certain family members are facing a medical condition, illness, or disability.

California laws protect you when you have a medical condition that impacts your ability to work 

In California, numerous laws provide a right to leave or other accommodations, job protection upon return to work, and protection from retaliation, including termination, because of a medical condition.

Medical conditions can include, among other things:

  • Diseases;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Infections;
  • Mobility impairments, such as broken bones and sprained muscles;
  • Various syndromes;
  • Mental retardation;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety.

These laws also provide protection for those acting as caregivers for a parent, child, or another close relative who is suffering from a medical condition. Such employees also need time off, although not for themselves directly, and these laws safeguard them from discrimination and retaliation, including termination.

If you are disabled, you might require a longer period of leave from work than is required for other medical conditions, and you may also need to have accommodations for guidelines or restrictions given to you by your doctor. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for requesting accommodations, whether or not it is feasible to accommodate you. This means that you should be confident in asking for accommodations, even if you are afraid they will be denied. More information on your right to an accommodation can be found here and here.

Who is covered by California’s disability discrimination laws?  

Many people are confused about want counts as a “disability” under California law. You may be surprised to learn that the legal definition is very broad and includes many conditions we may not normally refer to as “disabilities.”

California laws safeguard the rights of people who suffer from any disease, condition, anatomical loss, disorder, or disfigurement which impacts their ability to participate in key life activities, including talking, walking, seeing, hearing, learning, and working. Disabilities do not have to be permanent, either. Temporary impairments are are entitled to legal protections.

Examples of protected disabilities include, among others:

  • Deafness;
  • Blindness;
  • Diabetes;
  • Epilepsy;
  • Intellectual impairments;
  • Partial or completely missing limbs;
  • Autism;
  • HIV infection;
  • Bipolar disorder;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Schizophrenia;
  • Cancer;
  • Migraines;

In addition, if you have an immediate family member (child or spouse) who is disabled, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because that person has a disability.

Your right to time off under the FMLA, CFRA, ADA, and FEHA 

You may be entitled to additional unpaid time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or its California equivalent, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) when you have a medical condition. Both of these laws allow you to take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid job-protected leave during a 12-month period, if you have worked for 1,250 hours at a covered employer. This means that your employer may not fire you for taking this leave and that your employer must hold your job or a similar one open for you. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for taking leave or deny you the right to leave if you are eligible.

Even if you are not entitled to leave under the FMLA or CFRA (for example, if you haven’t worked long enough), you may be entitled to leave as a “reasonable accommodation.” This means that your employer must provide you leave for a disability if it does not pose an “undue burden” to their business. This is a fact-specific standard.

Our Employment Lawyers Fight for California Workers 

At King & Siegel LLP, we have helped hundreds of workers hold employers accountable through legal actions. If you have been denied sick leave or wrongfully terminated in violation of the paid sick leave laws, the FMLA, the CFRA, or other anti-discrimination laws, our attorneys are here to help.

Need legal help? We provide free, confidential consultations to California workers. You should contact us as soon as possible to make sure your claim is still within the time limits set by law. If you have experienced discrimination or your employer has wrongfully denied you sick leave, contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 465-4802 to schedule a free consultation.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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