Many employees often wonder if they can be legally terminated from their job if they suffer an injury outside of work. This article will explore the various circumstances surrounding this question, and provide an understanding of your rights as an employee in such situations.
Understanding Employment Laws and At-Will Employment
In the United States, most states follow the at-will employment doctrine, which means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it’s not for an illegal reason. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as protections provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Can You Be Fired for an Injury Outside of Work?
In general, employers cannot fire an employee solely for sustaining an injury outside of work. However, the situation can become more complex if the injury affects the employee’s ability to perform their job duties. To better understand the legal protections available to employees, let’s explore the ADA and FMLA in more detail.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Protections
The ADA is a federal law that protects employees with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. If an injury sustained outside of work qualifies as a disability under the ADA, the employer must make reasonable accommodations to enable the employee to perform their job duties. However, the employer is not required to provide accommodations that would cause an undue hardship to the business.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Protections
The FMLA is another federal law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain medical and family reasons, including the employee’s own serious health condition. If an employee qualifies for FMLA leave due to an injury sustained outside of work, the employer must allow them to take the leave and restore their position upon their return, provided the employee can still perform their job duties.
When Can an Employer Terminate an Employee with an Injury?
There are certain situations in which an employer may legally terminate an employee who has sustained an injury outside of work. These include:
- Performance issues: If the employee’s injury affects their ability to perform their job duties, and reasonable accommodations cannot be made, the employer may be justified in terminating the employee.
- Exhaustion of FMLA leave: If an employee exhausts their 12 weeks of FMLA leave and is still unable to return to work, the employer may legally terminate the employee.
- Business necessity: If the employer can demonstrate that retaining the employee would cause significant hardship to the business, such as financial strain or disruption of operations, they may be justified in terminating the employee.
What to Do If You Believe You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated?
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated due to an injury sustained outside of work, it’s important to take action promptly. Here are some steps you can take:
- Document your case: Gather all relevant information and documents, such as medical records, correspondence with your employer, and any evidence of your job performance. This will help you build a strong case should you decide to pursue legal action.
- Consult with an attorney: Seek the advice of an employment attorney who can help you understand your rights and determine if you have a viable wrongful termination claim. They can also guide you through the process of filing a complaint or pursuing a lawsuit.
- File a complaint: If your attorney believes you have a valid case, you may need to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s equivalent agency. The EEOC will investigate your claim and may attempt to mediate a resolution between you and your employer.
- Pursue a lawsuit: If the EEOC is unable to resolve your claim, you may have the option to pursue a lawsuit against your employer. An experienced employment attorney can help you navigate this process and advocate for your rights in court.
In conclusion, while employers generally cannot fire an employee for an injury sustained outside of work, there are certain situations in which termination may be legally justified. Employees who believe they have been wrongfully terminated due to an injury should consult with an attorney and explore their legal options. By understanding your rights and taking appropriate action, you can protect yourself against unfair treatment in the workplace.