Can my employer legally fire me for having a mental illness?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can my employer legally fire me for having a mental illness?

I am manic depressive and on medication. My doctor is currently trying to balance my meds. I am required to take a week off of work so this can happen safely. Can my employer fire/replace me in this given week that must be taken due to my illness?

Asked on March 27, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

There are 2 laws that must be considered here. The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects your employment for up to 12 weeks while you are off work due to a "serious health condition", assuming that you qualify (you can check with your HR department for details). However, this law only protects your right to take leave without jeopardizing your job. It does not protect you from discrimination on account of your condition itself. Another law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibits discrimination on account of a either a physical or mental disability and requires a reasonable accommodation of the disability. That having been said, your mental health problem may not meet the definition of "disability". Finally, if you have available PTO (sick days or vacation time) or a contract/union agreement that gives you the right to take this week off, then you have protection as well.         

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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