Terminating an Employee With a Disability: Is it Legal?

Were you discriminated against in the workplace due to your disability?

Is your employer refusing to provide you with reasonable accommodations you requested to be able to do your job that they originally promised?

Have you been terminated from a job, and believe your employer fired you because you’re disabled?

Terminating an employee with a disability can be illegal. If you are disabled, you’re protected from employer discrimination.

The company must provide reasonable accommodations so you can do your job properly. And they can’t fire you from taking time off to take care of your disability-related medical needs.

In this post, you’ll learn your rights. You’ll learn when termination is illegal and how you can be compensated for discrimination.

Let’s get started.

You May Be Entitled to a Claim

If you were fired because of your disability, you may be entitled to a wrongful termination claim against your employer. Companies are not allowed to discriminate against disabled workers.

They must provide the employees with reasonable accommodations so they can perform their work efficiently. Several laws give employees a right to take time off – or to reasonable accommodations – for disabilities.

What Constitutes a Disability?

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) states that a  disability is a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Major life activities are defined as activities necessary for everyday living.

Here are some examples: walking, breathing, learning, seeing, hearing, speaking, and performing manual activities. Others include the proper functioning of the body’s systems, including, respiratory, digestive, and neurological to name a few.

Protections for People with Disabilities

The ADA also protects workers from discrimination based on their health history. Take for instance if a person has a history of heart disease.

If your leg is injured and your injury doesn’t impair your ability to walk, it is discriminatory if your boss thinks you can’t do a job that requires you to walk. This is perception is discriminatory.

If you can do the essential responsibilities of your job with reasonable accommodations, it is illegal for your boss to fire you because of your disability. As a result, terminating an employee with a disability for discriminatory reasons is not a valid cause for termination.

Essential Responsibilities Defined

Essential responsibilities are defined as tasks an employee must be able to perform on the job. They are not occasional tasks that don’t need to be performed regularly.

In fact, your manager or employer may not base decisions at your workplace – such as your salary, project assignments, benefits, or giving you a promotion based on your disability.

If your former employer fires you because you are disabled, there’s a good chance you have legal claims against them. A knowledgeable disability lawyer can advise you about your individual case.

The ADA states that employers are not allowed to discriminate against qualified workers with disabilities. They also state people with disabilities must receive reasonable accommodations to enable you to do your job.

For example, if you need to take some time off work for your disability, you may be entitled to under the protection of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

How the ADA Protects People with Disabilities

The ADA protects qualified employees who are disabled from being discriminated at work.

Qualified means you hold the necessary qualifications such as licensing, credentials, and experience needed to carry out the requirements of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.

On the other hand, if a disability prevents an employee from performing the necessary job duties, an employer does not need to hire or keep an employee.

For example, if a position requires someone to lift heavy items and load vehicles, and a person cannot perform these functions due to their disability, the employer does not need to keep the employee or hire them.

Reasonable Accommodations

But if a reasonable accommodation will help you do the job, your employer must provide it for you. Another accommodation may be needing to take off for medical leave.

If your employer fired you from the job but you are qualified for the position and performed the essential tasks and functions, you may be eligible for a discrimination claim.

FMLA and Taking Time Off Work

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with disabilities the right to take time away from their jobs.

But these must be due to medical responsibilities you need to take care of related to your important health condition.

You have the right under FMLA to take off up to three months (12 weeks) during a year if you are unable to work. Some reasons you might need to take off include:

  • Receiving cancer treatments
  • Required surgery
  • Necessary rehabilitation center for physical therapy
  • Recovering from a major injury

If you are eligible the Family and Medical Leave Act may allow you to take off up to 12 weeks of work for a serious health condition.

However, the leave is unpaid. In addition, the FMLA only applies to companies that employ 50 or more employees.  Employees with disabilities must meet certain qualifications to be eligible for FMLA.

Although you will not be paid on FMLA, your employer must continue to pay your health benefits while you are out. As a result, if your employer fires you for being out on FMLA, you could have a good FMLA legal claim.

Finding an Attorney to Help You with Your Claim

It is important to contact a lawyer if you are terminated because of your disability.

You’ll need to provide evidence that your employer fired you because of your disability. Not because of your conduct, job performance, or the company’s financial situation like a layoff.

A lawyer can look into your claim through a process called discovery to collect data to assist you with your case. They will help you assess the facts necessary to move forward with litigation.

The Takeaway on Terminating An Employee With a Disability

Now you know more about your disability rights. In many cases, terminating an employee with a disability is illegal. If you have a valid claim, you may be compensated well – or even be reinstated at your job.

We are a Southern California-based law firm made up of former prosecutors and judges who know the law. Contact us today. We fight for your rights.

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