If I was terminated from my job due to a non-work related injury, was my employer legally entitled to do so?

UPDATED: Nov 30, 2011

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If I was terminated from my job due to a non-work related injury, was my employer legally entitled to do so?

I was stricken with lower back pain and I promptly notified employer. I told them I would keep them apprised of my condition. Approximately 3 weeks later, I was terminated over the phone because I “have been, and continue to miss work”. Upon termination, my health benefits were cancelled and now I am in need of back surgery.

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, this is most likely legal. An employer is not obligated to retain as an employee--or to keep paying benefits for--someone who cannot or does not come to work. The only exceptions would be:

1) If you have an employment contract which covered this situation and protected or preserved your job;

2) Your employer and you are both covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act or a similar state law, and you took unpaid leave pursuant to that law. To be covered, your employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius, and you have to have worked there at least a year. Also, you have to indicate you are taking FMLA leave.

3) IF your condition qualifies as a disability--which it may not; it's not clear that acute injuries always do--then the employer may need to make reasonable accomodations for that injury; but if you would be out for a number of weeks or frequently on an ongoing basis, it is not at all clear that it is "reasonable" to require the employer to retain you. Therefore, while it's not impossible that you'd have a claim for disability-based discrimination, it is, on the balance, unlikely.

Consider: to retain you and pay for your insurance while you are not working means the employer is being forced to pay benefits without getting anything in return. The law does not require that as a general matter, except as above.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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