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Can A California Employee Be Fired After Getting Sick?

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

A Quick Guide To Taking Leaves, Sickness Recovery, And FMLA In California

Employees sometimes hesitate to tell their employers they need a break for health reasons. Whether it's because of the employer's past behavior or that the employee simply isn't aware of their employment rights.

Some employers may try to fire employees who become ill or injured. Specific regulations, however, exist to safeguard employees who are confronted with these situations. You should learn about your rights if you believe you were fired because of a medical concern.

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That said, California is one of the few states with the most comprehensive worker protections. For example, employers in California cannot make employment reasons due to discrimination or violate state and federal laws that protect the well-being of their employees.

Discrimination Based On An Employee's Medical Condition Is Prohibited In California

Your employer cannot make employment decisions—such as hiring, firing, demoting, and salary reduction—on the basis that you are sick, disabled, or temporarily incapacitated.

Even if your employment status is "at-will," where your employer can fire workers and employees can leave at any time, firing someone solely on their medical condition is still considered illegal in California. Sure, regular employees will have protections against breach of contract and other benefits. However, at-will employees are still protected from employment decisions that are considered violations of the law.

According to the US Department of Labor, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates employers to provide medical leave to covered employees in specific circumstances. Eligible employees may take unpaid, job-protected, and health-insurance-protected leave for up to 12 work weeks during the course of a year. All covered conditions are the birth and care of a newborn or adopted child, a significant health condition, and caring for a kid, spouse, or parent with a severe health condition.

If the employee's spouse, kid, or parent was injured or ill while on "covered active" military duty, they are also protected under FMLA. In these cases, the covered employee may be entitled to 26 workweeks of leave over the course of a year.

Another element of federal legislation is the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees with mental or physical impairments (often referred to as disabilities) that seriously limit essential living functions the ADA. The ADA requirements might occasionally apply to medical issues that aren't disabilities.

Paid Family Leave in California

California has a tangle of overlapping family and medical leave statutes. In California, paid Family Leave (PFL) covers a portion of the salaries of qualified employees who take time off to care for qualifying family members or a newly-born child.

Other state and federal legislation, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, can provide for periods of leave from work during which a worker's job is safeguarded. Still, only the state's Paid Family Leave insurance can compensate for a portion of income (for qualified employees).

Employees that are covered:

Employees who are covered by insurance, which is deducted from their paychecks, are eligible for paid family leave.

Provided Benefits:

Paid Family Leave insurance pays a qualifying employee 55 percent of their base pay. Within any 12-month period, these effects can last up to 8 weeks.

Leave Qualifying Reasons:

Covered employees can take time off under the Paid Family Leave Act to:

  1. Bond with a newborn child, an adopted child, or a foster child

  2. Provide care for a terminally sick parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner.

Employees needing time off to care for a qualifying family member should remember that not every cold or flu will qualify as a "severe" illness to receive benefits. In addition, employees' personal sickness is not eligible for paid leave under the law.

Employers must follow their policies when dealing with injured and unwell personnel and follow federal and state legislation. For example, if the employee has disability insurance coverage, they may be eligible for monetary benefits if they cannot work, but there is usually no job protection. In addition, employers may be able to fire employees who are receiving disability payments, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

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Existing corporate practices on paid time off and sick leave may also influence how an employee handles certain situations. For example, if an employee takes all of their paid vacation time, the company may be willing to provide them unpaid time off. All employees must be treated equally; if two employees are hurt in the same way at the same time, both are entitled to the same benefits provided by the company, or the treatment is illegal.

Termination for Medical Reasons

Even with all of those laws in place, a health-related termination is possible. Much of the decision-making in the United States is guided by the principle of "employment at will." As a result, an employer can fire an employee for nearly any cause unless it is illegal.

Wrongful termination cases may be filed against companies that discriminate or violate other federal or state laws. It is also prohibited to fire an employee who is on FMLA leave or who can still perform their essential job tasks with appropriate accommodations.

If the employee can return to work but requires a reasonable accommodation (such as a handicapped-accessible washroom), the employer must supply it. However, the job may be legally terminated if the employee does not return to work after the company has offered accommodations or after their FMLA leave has ended.

When Your FMLA Rights Have Been Infringed Upon?

Discrimination and retribution in the workplace are illegal. Thus, the idea that California's leave restrictions are "protected" is the most essential feature.

This assures that an employee must be rehired to their former or comparable position once a California employer's maternity leave or other leave of absence ends. After all, taking a "leave of absence" is pointless if you won't be able to return to work once it's finished.

In California, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who request or take a leave of absence, retaliating against them, or otherwise taking adverse employment action against them.

All of the following are examples of illegal discrimination or retaliation against a worker who takes a safe leave of absence:

  • Dismissal without cause

  • Demotions that are unjustified

  • Pay cuts that come out of nowhere

  • Harassment and threats

  • Intimidation

  • Bullying and coercion by employers and other employees

In other words, Employment Retaliation occurs when your manager makes employment decisions to punish you for seeking or taking a leave. When this happens, you'll have ample reason to hire a California Employment Attorney and forward complaints with the proper authorities.

Harassments Motivated by Retaliation

Employers in California are prohibited from harassing pregnant employees, having given birth, or seeking pregnancy-related leave under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (known as "FEHA").

Employers, bosses, and coworkers are all covered by this law. Harassment is illegal if it is pervasive or severe enough to produce a hostile or abusive work environment or lead to an adverse employment decision.

Harsh jokes, slurs, insulting remarks about an employee, and unwanted touches are all examples of harassment. Unlike traditional discrimination claims, the legislation does not require that employees be injured or handicapped due to offensive behavior. Instead, the harassment is enough to support a claim of unlawful harassment.

If your employer, manager, or HR department tried to get back at you for filing claims and fighting for your rights, contact an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles to help you.

When You're Illegally Fired?

Employers can retaliate against their employees in various ways, one of which is to terminate them. According to California Employment Law, Wrongful Termination in California occurs when an employee is fired for illegal reasons, such as in retaliation for asking for or taking a leave of absence.

Whether by termination, dismissal, or downsizing, losing your job is one of life's most devastating experiences. California law, on the other hand, offers some protection. Wrongful termination is banned if the following conditions are met:

  1. It's done to be discriminatory.

  2. It's against a company policy or a government contract.

  3. It is carried out in retaliation for the employee exercising a lawful right.

California provides at-will employment, which means that either the employee or the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason.

On the other hand, at-will employment is far more complicated than a simple justification for wrongful termination. Employees will not be hired for a set period of time and may be fired at any time. Thus, while employers regularly use the term "at-will employment," employers may still not fire employees for illegal grounds, as this is deemed wrongful termination.

Despite this, some of California's most well-known companies engage in illegal terminations from time to time. If you believe you were fired unfairly, you should consult with an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles to guide you through the claims process.

Although many employees in the public or government sector are at-will, those with implicit, verbal, or written contracts and union members may claim to be excluded. The majority of workers in California, however, are on an at-will basis.

While this regulation may allow companies to hire and fire employees at their discretion, wrongful termination statutes nevertheless make it illegal to terminate an employee for any reason.

You don't need a signed, official employment agreement to make it lawful. On the other hand, a permanent job posting and the company's disciplinary procedures in the employee handbook can result in a contract. Additional evidence of an employment contract includes the following:

  • The employer makes an offer.

  • You decide to take the offer.

  • The arrangement benefits both you and the company.

As a California employee, you may be concerned that your employer will fire you without cause, which is understandable. However, due to specific exceptions to the at-will employment law, you may be the victim of workplace discrimination or wrongful termination.

Employees can resign, stop working or strike at any time and for any cause. If a corporation fires an employee for a good reason, it must have sufficient evidence to support its decision. When an employee's behavior demands the prompt termination of their employment contract, just cause is utilized.

That said, employment law can be complicated. Some discriminatory actions can lead to multiple employment law concerns, so mapping out your experience and identifying the employer's violations is the best way to build a solid claim. Consult with a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to help you file claims with solid grounds or reason to do so.

Employer Leave Law Violations: What Are Your Legal Options?

Employers who break state and federal leave rules abuse California workers' rights. These workers will be unaware that they have legal options if they find themselves in this circumstance. Any deserving employee who is denied the legal right to take a paid leave of absence may file a lawsuit against their company.

Employers are prohibited by California law from interfering with an employee's protected leave rights when they are exercising or attempting to exercise them. Time off for you or a family member with a serious health problem is included in covered leave. Employees who have been refused the ability to take a leave of absence or have been punished or discriminated against as a result of their absence may be able to file a complaint.

Employees with disabilities are protected under the FMLA.

As previously stated, California offers a wide range of worker protections. In addition, discrimination laws address a wide range of employee characteristics and provide them with employment safeguards. Employees with disabilities are among those with protected characteristics.

A leave of absence is considered an accommodation for disabled employees for the purposes of this article. Therefore, when an employer refuses to approve an employment leave or retaliates due to it, they also infringe on a disabled employee's entitlement to reasonable accommodations.

Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments. While employers are not compelled to accommodate an employee's chosen lodgings, they must do so if it does not place an unreasonable financial or operational burden on the company. The employer's size and financial ability and the cost, difficulty, and disruption associated with the accommodation all factor into determining whether or not the accommodation is appropriate.

The law stipulates that when an employer learns about an employee's impairment and/or any occupational problems linked to the handicap, the employer and the employee engage in a good-faith interactive way to consider possible changes. Employers who refuse to engage in a good-faith interactive approach are breaching the law and could face legal consequences.

As a result, employees must participate in the phase of good faith accommodation. An employer may seek medical certification of the employee's condition as part of the fair accommodation procedure and any attempts to consult with the employee's medical specialists to establish what would be a reasonable accommodation. Employees who refuse to participate in an interactive approach in good faith and are fired as a result have no legal recourse.

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If there is a breakdown in the interactive phase that results in discharge or retribution, the courts investigate who is to blame. As a result, when you're in the midst of an accommodation period, it's vital to keep track of your participation in every situation. Your manager or HR should receive a copy of this material.

Discrimination against current or potential employees because of a disability is prohibited. Therefore, a question about your limitation is not included in a pre-employment questionnaire. Instead, you'll be asked if you require any special accommodations if you're offered a job.

  • If your disease poses a reasonable risk to others, your employer has the right to refuse your employment or fire you. For example, epileptics who suffer seizures have been prohibited from operating buses, trains, and other vehicles because of serious health risks.

  • On the other hand, these dangers must be real, not merely speculative. That means the employer must justify their decision not to hire you rather than simply rejecting your application based on a hunch that you might be a workplace danger.

If you are an employee who has been discriminated against due to your disabilities (permanent or temporary), you should consult with a California Employment Attorney to help you fight for your employment rights.

What Compensation Can You Get If You File A Discrimination Claim?

Employees sometimes refuse to make claims because they believe it will cost them time and money that isn't worth it. If you have sufficient reasons to bring an Employment Claim, however, you will most likely be successful if you hire the correct counsel.

Here are a few examples of damages for which you may be reimbursed under California labor laws:

  • Income loss. If you win your case at trial, you will be reimbursed for your lost income, salary, or wage. To put it another way, you will be compensated in the same way that you would have been compensated if you had not been discriminated against.

  • Emotional distress damages. These people experience "pain and suffering" as a result of discrimination. Anxiety, insecurity, and emotional suffering are examples of these. Weight loss, insomnia, weeping episodes, melancholy, and loss of enjoyment of life, for example, could all be compensated. These damages are intended to reimburse you for your mental distress in the past and in the future.

  • Punitive damages. Punitive damages are used to compensate a firm for its negligent behavior. These forms of damages are uncommon in the United States, and Supreme Court decisions govern them. You must establish that the employer acted with coercion, dishonesty, or intent to win punitive damages.

  • Attorney fees. The ability to recover your employment attorney's fees and other damages is one of the most powerful features of FEHA discrimination claims. California's legislature elected to incentivize employment attorneys to check employment discrimination because many discrimination lawsuits have minimal economic and emotional suffering compensation.

The payable damages are to compensate an aggrieved party for the economic and non-economic losses they've incurred because of their employer's illegal action. When people lose their jobs because of discrimination, it can significantly affect their income, living status, and capacity to survive monetarily.

Thus, if you successfully prove that your employer has inflicted you with your losses, you might be able to claim compensation to help you recover financially and emotionally. This is why getting s qualified, prescreened Los Angeles Employment Lawyer can help you win your case. Your lawyer will be able to conduct investigations, gather evidence, complete documents, and assist you in filing your claims to the right agencies.

Is There A Deadline For Filing FMLA Claims In California?

An FMLA complaint must be filed within a certain amount of time, known as the statute of limitations. Whether the employee files a complaint with the Secretary of Labor or files a private action against their employer, this rule applies:

  1. The FMLA does not have a specified statute of limitations for filing a claim with the Secretary of Labor. According to the US Department of Labor, the complaint should be filed at the Wage and Hour Division within a reasonable period after the employee realizes their FMLA rights have been infringed.

  2. An employee who files a private lawsuit in state or federal court for an FMLA violation has two years from the date of the last action the employee believes the employer took in violation of the FMLA. Employees have three years to initiate a lawsuit if they believe their employer knowingly violated the FMLA.

It's vital to remember that the court will decide whether or not the FMLA breach was intentional. Furthermore, state employees' rights may be reduced if they file a private suit.

Where Can You Find A Lawyer For FMLA Violations In California?

If you believe you were fired illegally because you took a protected leave of absence, your employer may have broken California employment law. As quickly as feasible, ask for a lawyer referral.

Our prescreened California Employment Attorneys are well-versed in California labor law. They also have a lot of experience defending the rights of California employees whose bosses have defied the law.

You'll be able to find reputable Los Angeles Employment Lawyers. They can help you file a claim against your employer for violating the California Leave Act. You can either get your employment back or recover unpaid wages and other punitive penalties if you do so.

When your employer tries to take advantage of your employee rights to maternity leave and other protected leaves, you'll need the help of a trusted and honest employment lawyer to preserve your rights.

How Do I Get A Referral To A Prescreened California Employment Law Attorney?

Here at, you can:

  1. Make a request online at any time. Within 15 minutes, you will receive a free case review.

  2. Within 5 minutes, you'll be chatting with an employment lawyer specializing in California Employment Law.

Submit your case details here for a quick case review.


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