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Wrongful Termination After Taking Sick Leave in California

Emanuel Shirazi

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are concerned about staying healthy and preventing germs from spreading to others. For many people, this means remaining home from work if they are feeling ill, whereas, in past years, they may have powered through their illness at the office.

Employees generally learn about their employer’s sick leave policy and their access to sick leave at orientation or on their first day. Regardless of your reason for doing so, you have the right to take time off of work when you are sick. In fact, many workplaces have designated sick time for employees to use when they are feeling unwell or need to take care of a family member who is unwell.

If you take sick leave that is within the boundaries set by your employer, or local or state laws, you cannot be fired. Fortunately, Los Angeles laws state that employees are legally entitled to sick leave that is accrued no slower than a rate of one hour of sick time per every 30 hours worked. Unfortunately, employers do not always follow the law. If you get fired because you took sick leave that is within the legal limits, you can begin a claim against your employer to sue for damages.

Sick Time

Sick time and personal time are different. Personal time off can be used for a myriad of purposes, while a sick day should only be used for certain circumstances. These circumstances include the following:

  • You are sick
  • Your family member is sick, and you need to care for them
  • You need to go to a doctor’s appointment or bring a family member to one
  • You or your family member need preventative care

Because your employer is paying you during this time, they have the right to put some parameters on the use of sick time. Personal time, if you have it, can be used at your discretion.

You have the right to take your allotted sick time without being fired. As long as you properly notify your employer of your absence, your job should not be threatened.

Family and Medical Leave Act

In some situations, a medical condition requires more care than can be used under Los Angeles sick time. In these situations, you may be able to take an extended leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its California counterpart law the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

FMLA gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. During this time, an employer does not have to offer payment. However, they must continue to offer insurance if the employee normally gets it through the company.

You cannot be fired for using your FMLA rights, but you may need more notice than you would with a sick day. While you may be able to call in sick to work the night before or the morning of your shift, FMLA usually requires a bit more notice, as it is an extended time away. Of course, some emergency situations do not allow for advance notice, which is permissible.

Wrongful Termination and Attorneys

If you are fired for taking sick leave or FMLA leave, you need to find a Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney right away.

Finding an attorney is a thorough process. It is important to find someone with whom you feel comfortable and can speak openly about your experience. This can be vulnerable, as illnesses often feel very personal to talk about. Be sure that you feel comfortable speaking to any potential attorneys.

The most important requirement for an attorney is experience. Find legal representation that has a strong history in the field of wrongful termination and medical leave laws.

FAQs About Wrongful Termination After Taking Sick Leave in California

Can My Employer Terminate Me While I Am on Sick Leave?

Your employer can terminate you while you are on sick leave but not because you are on sick leave. If your employer has a valid reason to fire you, such as poor performance, they may do so while you are on sick leave or FMLA leave. However, they cannot fire you only because you took sick leave or FMLA leave. If you suspect that your employer has done the latter, you can begin a wrongful termination case with the help of an employment lawyer.

Can an Employer Fire You for Being Sick With a Doctor’s Note in California?

California is an at-will employment state, meaning that your employer can terminate you without cause. However, they cannot fire you for using sick time that you are entitled to. If your employer has a valid reason to fire you that is not related to you taking sick time, it is legal. A note will not necessarily protect you from termination.

Am I Entitled to Sick Time in Los Angeles?

Yes. The city of Los Angeles requires that all employees get 48 hours of sick time per year. The employer can give these hours to the employee automatically or can accrue them at a rate no slower than 1 hour per 30 hours worked. The employer may cap the possible sick time at 48 hours but does not have to set a limit. They cannot, however, cap the amount any lower than 48 hours.

Contact Shirazi Law Firm Online

For many years, our team has been helping workers who have been wrongfully terminated from their jobs. If you have been sick or needed to use sick time and got terminated, you may have a wrongful termination case on your hands. We are here to help.

Contact Shirazi Law Firm online to learn more.

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