Can My Employer Fire Me Because I Was Sick In the Hospital With an Injury Received On the Job or Had Time Off Due to Pregnancy?

These are complex issues that do not always turn out to be fair for the employee. Generally, an employer has a legal right to demand that the employee show up for work. In the courts, the issue of absenteeism is usually decided in favor of the employer. The employer can legally limit the number of sick days allowed to each employee and can legitimately terminate an employee who goes over that number. When that employee applies for unemployment benefits, all states allow the employer to fight against awarding those benefits because of excessive absenteeism.

Excessive absenteeism does not depend on how legitimate the employee’s illness is. It is legal for the employer to require a doctor’s note for any absences due to illness; however, that note does not absolve the employee from taking the time off. Courts side with the employer when it comes to issues of sick time.

As for an injury that occurred on the job, if the employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, there is some protection under state laws during the time that the employee cannot work. Employers can legally require that an employee under the protection of a workers’ compensation claim go to the employer’s doctors for evaluations. Some employees feel that these doctors will not be accurate in their evaluations, and many times the employer’s and employee’s doctors differ in diagnosis and the date for the employee to return to work. Problems can also arise when the employee attempts to return to his or her job if it either has been eliminated or the employee is no long physically able to perform it.

Regarding those who are terminated due to taking time off for a pregnancy, this can fall under the umbrella of excessive absenteeism, especially when the employer does not offer pregnancy leave. The EEOC prohibits discrimination due to pregnancy, as do most states. The employee will need to prove that she was not provided with the same time off as other employees received who had a temporary illness. She must show that the termination was due to her pregnancy and not to the issue of excessive absenteeism.

Pregnancy discrimination, disability discrimination, and discrimination against those who have filed workers’ compensation claims are complex matters that must be individually evaluated by a local attorney.

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