Can You Get Fired for Calling in Sick?

Rules and Legal Protections

sick woman blowing nose on couch
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Being sick is no fault of your own - but unfortunately, you can still be faulted for it at work. In the majority of circumstances, an employer can fire employees who miss time from work due to illness, as most workers are employed at will. It’s okay to take sick days when you truly need them, but if you take too many at the wrong times, it could portend a problem. For instance, if you're calling in sick on multiple Mondays due to your Sunday hangover, that's not going to bode well with your boss.

Can You Get Fired for Calling in Sick to Work?

Employment at will means that employees can be terminated without an explanation, leaving them with little or no protection if they are fired for missing work.

However, employees who are covered by individual or union contracts may be protected from this type of firing based on the stipulations within their agreements. In addition, many companies have a policy regarding sick days that goes beyond the federal requirements laid out in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

When You Miss Too Much Work

Even with the trend to make sick pay more available, workers who are periodically absent due to illness remain the most vulnerable and least protected category of employees. Adequate attendance is understandably a requirement for successfully carrying out most jobs, and unless you've arranged some sort of sick leave agreement with your boss, if you miss a significant number of days, it will reflect poorly on you.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Employees with well documented disabilities as defined within the Americans with Disabilities Act may be protected from a firing due to illness.

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers and that may include allocating more time off to deal with medical issues.


Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides certain employees working for organizations with over 50 employees with up to 12 weeks of work off within a 12-month period. Covered situations include pregnancy and care for a newborn, a serious medical condition, caring for an immediate family member with a serious health problem and adoptions. 

Workplace Injuries

Workers who are injured on the job or become ill due to workplace conditions may also be protected from a firing due to related absences under workers compensation laws.

Check with the Department of Labor

Check with your state's department of labor to determine if there are other laws on the state level similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which might pertain to your situation.

Read More: 50 Questions and Answers About Getting Fired | Excuses (Good and Bad) for Missing Work

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