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When you’re fired after developing health problems

What happens when you’ve developed a serious medical condition and your employer responds to the uncertainty in your life by terminating your position? Are you simply out of luck?

Not necessarily. There are a number of laws that protect employees from wrongful termination.

Were you out on leave when you were fired? If so, your employer probably doesn’t fall under the guidelines for protection established by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A lot of smaller employers assume that’s the only law they have to contend with when it comes to their sick employees.

That’s a mistake. There are other laws that may step in to protect your job when the FMLA fails to cover you.

For example, if you were injured on the job, your job might be protected under the rules for workers’ compensation. Similarly, if you were off work because of your own chronic or acute health condition, you may have protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) — even if you haven’t yet requested any reasonable accommodations. (The questions becomes whether or not a period of leave would be considered a “reasonable” accommodation under the ADA for your situation.)

What about a situation, however, where you get a problematic medical diagnosis but still make it into work most of the time? Some employers still respond negatively to the uncertainty of an employee’s diagnosis — even when there’s no obvious reason to do so.

For example, a cancer diagnosis may make your employer assume that you’ll be leaving anyhow — or that you’ll become unreliable as you go through treatment. Similarly, an HIV diagnosis may make some employers wary simply because they’re misinformed about the way the disease is spread.

If you find yourself holding a pink slip shortly after your health troubles began, you may be a victim of wrongful termination. If that’s so, you have a right to ask for compensation in a court of law.