Can You Be Fired for Taking a Sick Day?

Find out When You’re Protected—and When You’re Not

The simple answer is yes. As with all other states in the United States, Pennsylvania is an at-will state. Your employer can fire you for any reason, without warning, as long as the reason isn’t unlawful — such as outright discrimination or retaliation. (You’re also free to quit whenever you want, for any reason.)

Employers generally have internal policies covering sick leave, and if you don’t follow the rules, that can raise your chances of being fired for taking a sick day. Most employers expect you to notify them when you won’t be coming in to work, for example—and some may start looking askance if you often call in sick on Fridays or Mondays.

However, under at-will rules, employers do have a right to fire you when you take a sick day, even if you followed all the rules. But there are some exceptions. These include:

Your Contract Protects You

Some employees work under contracts that state the employer can’t fire them for using their sick days under most conditions. This is more common in union environments, but some individual employment contracts have this stipulation as well.

You Have a Disability

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if you have a qualifying disability, it may be unlawful for your employer to fire you if you take a sick day related to that disability.

The ADA also provides that your employer should make other reasonable accommodations for you in order to accommodate your disability —such as adjusting your work schedule, modifying your workspace, and reallocating certain non-essential job duties that you can’t perform because of your disability.

To get additional sick leave and other protections under the ADA, you have to disclose your disability to your employer. They should have an internal process for documenting your needs and formally making the request.

You Qualify for FMLA Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides qualifying employees with up to 12 weeks of leave to deal with major health and caregiving demands. Employees may use it to recover after surgery, care for a newborn baby or sick family member, get treatment for a chronic illness, and more.

You don’t have to specifically ask for FMLA leave when you put in a request for more time off with your employer—they should know that you qualify for it based on the circumstances of your request.

You can take FMLA leave in one lump sum, or use it to scale back the number of days or hours you work on a temporary basis. Your employer must keep your job—or an equivalent job, with the same pay, duties, benefits, and location—available for you when your leave is over.

You Got Sick or Injured on the Job

If you get sick or injured because of conditions at work, your employer is usually required to pay your medical costs and give you time off to get well. It may be unlawful to fire you under these conditions because of workers’ compensation protections.

In some cases, it’s obvious that your illness or injury was caused at work. However, this can sometimes be hard to prove—and when it is, your employer may fire you to pre-empt a workers’ compensation claim. This may be a violation of your rights.

Talk to an Experienced Employment Lawyer

If you think you may have been fired illegally because of a medical condition, talk to an experienced employment lawyer.

Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com for a free, confidential consultation today.

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.

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Michael Patrick Murphy, Jr.

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