Can I be terminate if I was out of work due to illness but provided a doctor’s note?

UPDATED: Jun 17, 2015

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Can I be terminate if I was out of work due to illness but provided a doctor’s note?

I was employed by a hospital as a records clerk for 6 months. I had just had my 6 month review which was perfect, not one thing needing improvement. I came down with a case of shingles and was out for 2 weeks. I went back to work but in less then 2 weeks was in excruciating pain. My doctor told me it was nerve pain from the shingles and wanted me out of work for a month to let things heal. I told my manager and gave her the out of work note from my doctor, however 2 days later the HR person called and terminated me. She said I was an excellent employee and should reapply when I was healthy again. Is this legal ?

Asked on June 17, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is legal. An employer is not required to retain an employee who cannot do his or her job, even if that is due to a medical cause, unless the employee is eligible for, and uses, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Unfortunately, if you had only worked for this employer for 6 months or so, you would not be able to take FMLA leave with them. Without FMLA leave, an employer may terminate someone who does not or is not doing the job for which he/she was hired. The doctor's note does not control the employer; the doctor is not an executive at the employer and has no authority over it.

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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