Wrongfully Terminated Because of Covid-19?

Updated: Mar 4

You might have a wrongful termination case against your employer after being terminated for taking medical leave or reporting unsafe working conditions.

Most of the reports surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has centered on layoffs—and understandably so, considering the high unemployment rates. But a less-visible issue has been the workers who were wrongfully terminated for reasons related to the pandemic. Depending on the situation, some employees in California will be considering to sue their previous employers for what's known as "wrongful termination".

Many jobs in California are "at will," which ensures that your employer doesn't need an excuse to terminate you. However, certain grounds for dismissing workers are unconstitutional and against the law. This article explores some of the most frequent reasons employees have been terminated since the COVID-19 pandemic—and looks at which ones could be considered as wrongful termination.

california wrongful termination

Your Right to Days Off Work Because of COVID-19

If you have to skip work for any reasons relevant to COVID-19, you have the right under the law to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Few states have parental and sick leave policies that are more generous than federal legislation.

Your company can not fire you if you're out on FMLA leave, as long as you haven't gone past the time limit. States with family and medical leave laws usually offer the same benefit. It's still illegal to terminate you only because you asked or took leave under either federal or state law.

Can You Be Terminated for Demanding a COVID-Related Disability Accommodation?

You could have legal rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) if it weren't possible for you to work at your usual job site because of a medical condition that renders you more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Your employer should provide you with suitable accommodations—such as encouraging you to operate remotely or modifying your workspace layout—as long as it wouldn't cause unnecessary inconvenience or conflict with your ability to do your job. You could argue for illegal disability discrimination if you were dismissed rather than allowed a fair accommodation.

Even though employees over 65 are also more likely to get severely sick from COVID-19, age isn't considered a deficiency under the ADA. That means your employer doesn't have to make extra accommodations for you only because you're older. However, it would be unethical age discrimination for management to terminate you because your age made you more vulnerable to the infection.