What is the law regarding termination of an employee due to a medical incident?

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What is the law regarding termination of an employee due to a medical incident?

For 4months, I have been in and out of the hospital and doctors office for heart palpitations, constant lightheadedness, and blackouts. It got so bad that I was recently terminated by my employer for not being able to complete my work. Now I have lost my insurance and can’t afford the ridiculously high price of COBRA, so I’ll never get a decent diagnosis or any kind of treatment, and my health is getting worse and worse, so the odds of me getting a new job now are next to none. What are my rights?

Asked on September 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with an employment attorney, but you may not have any recourse. A company cannot discriminate against someone with a disability, but 1) not all medical conditions are considered disabilities; and in any event, "not discriminating" means accomodating the disability if doing so is "reasonable"--that is, it is not too costly or disruptive. If you kept missing work with little or no notice, for example, it may have been impossible to accomodate you--and companies do not need to retain and pay people who cannot work.

You may have been able to use FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) leave to cover your  absences, but only if the company is covered (at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius), you are eligible (you had sufficient hours; "google" FMLA to see the criteria), and you asked in advance  to use the leave. Therefore, FMLA may not have been available or helped you.

It's worth discussing the situation in detail with an attorney, but the problem is, if you kept missing work, the company may not have been obligated to retain you. Good luck.


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