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Getting fired when you’re sick

When you’re suffering from a medical condition that already makes you feel pretty miserable, there’s nothing worse than an unsympathetic employer.

But, can that employer fire you because your illness is affecting your attendance and your job performance?


Under certain circumstances, an employer can terminate you even if you’re suffering from a condition that’s protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). However, your employer has to be exceptionally careful not to violate your rights — otherwise, you could have a good case for wrongful termination.

How can you tell if your employer violated the law or not? Consider these things:

Did you notify your employer of your disability and ask for accommodations in writing?

Hopefully, you took these formal steps. An official request for accommodation offers you a lot of protection. Your employer is obligated to allow you accommodations that don’t create great expense or difficulties. For example, imagine you’re suffering from morning sickness. Asking your employer to allow you a flexible schedule — which would allow you to come in later and make up the time you missed in the morning in the late afternoon — is often reasonable for many jobs.

Were you able to adequately perform your job with accommodations?

Your employer isn’t obligated to keep you on the payroll if your job performance has fallen below acceptable levels even with accommodations.

For example, imagine that your employer grants you flex-time in order to accommodate your migraines. However, you repeatedly don’t show up at all and don’t call your employer to let him or her know you’ll be absent. Or, when you do come in, your work is suffering. Tasks are going undone or incomplete. The quality of your performance has also slid. Your employer would be justified in firing you.

Did your employer mention your disability as part of the decision to fire you?

That’s a huge red flag. While not definitive, comments about your disability do indicate the employer is thinking about that first — not your job performance.

If you suspect you were fired due to your disability or medical condition, take a good look at the circumstances. If you were still getting the job done after accommodations were made — or no one even gave you the chance to try — you could be the victim of an unlawful termination.

Source:, “Can My Employer Fire Me Because I Had a Medical Problem?,” accessed April 26, 2018