Sick leave is often one of the most favorable benefits offered by employers. If your job offers you a generous amount of sick leave, you probably consider yourself lucky, especially if you take your health and wellness seriously.
Recent times have emphasized the importance of staying home if you are sick or not feeling well. Going into work while sick can cause your illness to spread to others in your workplace, with serious consequences for those who may have compromised immune systems or other health issues.
By staying home when you are sick, you are being responsible and thinking of the safety of others. That’s why it can be so shocking if you are fired for using too many sick days. Your employer may become suspicious and think you simply don’t want to work or are being lazy.
When you cannot be fired
Under California law, your employer cannot fire you for using your sick days if you have a disability or a serious health condition. A disability is defined as something that limits a major life activity.
Therefore, if you are using your allotted sick time because of a headache, cold, flu or other common illnesses, you probably do not qualify as disabled. It may still help to see a doctor and provide your employer with proof of any diagnosis or recommendations.
A disability can be temporary. For example, a broken leg generally limits major life activities and may prevent you from performing your job duties.
A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that causes an incapacity requiring you to miss work. Your employer may not fire you if you have a serious health condition, provided you give them notice and request time off.
Give notice as soon as you can
Sometimes a serious health condition is unexpected, and you cannot immediately give notice to your employer. The law takes this into account and states that if you tell your employer as soon as is practically possible, they cannot fire you or deny you time off.
When you are sick, your focus should be on getting well, not losing your job. Advice from an experienced employment attorney can help you understand your rights.