Can I Be Fired for Sick Days Due to my Chronic illness

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Can I Be Fired for Sick Days Due to Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS?

Know What the Laws Protect-And What They Don’t

I’ve missed a lot of work due to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.  Can I be fired for missing too many days even though my employer knows I’m chronically ill? In the U.S., you have several laws protecting your ability to keep working in spite of chronic illness.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are federal laws, so they apply across the country. Individual state laws may apply, as well. You should also know what, if any, policies your employer has regarding excessive sick time and disciplinary action.

Suffering from Severe or Chronic Fibromyalgia

f you are unfortunate enough to have been categorized as either a severe or chronic sufferer of the condition then you may find it more difficult to carry out normal day to day tasks such as housework, looking after children or holding down a job of work.

If this is the case then your doctor will have probably forwarded you to a consultant who may be able to help with a pain management regime. These pain management plans are designed to help you the sufferer cope with the pain and also the loss of mobility that this pain may also bring about. As we have said before Fibromyalgia is a condition that has no cure so each of the symptoms are looked at in turn to try and best judge how to deal with them.

 

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Continuing to Work if You Have Fibromyalgia

When many sufferers first discover they have Fibromyalgia (and this is normally long before it is diagnosed by their doctor) they experience a variety of symptoms such as pain, headaches and fatigue which can cause them to have time off work. When this is the case it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible in order that he may attempt to treat the pain.

Sufferers of Fibromyalgia can continue to work but must embark on a program of pain management and also work out a daily regime that suits both them and their symptoms. It is important for example to rest when you can and not to overwork yourself. Not only does this lead to stress but stress can then trigger what is known as a ‘flare up’.

The FMLA

Even though it’s a federal law, the FMLA only covers certain businesses. You and your workplace are covered if all three of these obligations are satisfied:

  • >>You’ve worked there for at least a year
  • >>You’ve put in at least 1,250 hours in the past year
  • >>Your employer has 50 or more employers within a 75-mile radius

Intermittent leave

In addition to prolonged leaves of absence, such as maternity leave, the FMLA allows you to take what’s called intermittent leave for a serious health problem. That’s what your sporadic sick days would fall under, as long as they’re related to your chronic conditions. Is your health problem legally considered “serious”? Along with pregnancy, hospitalization, or conditions requiring long-term care, the Department of Labor considers an illness serious if it’s a chronic condition that causes periods of incapacity.

Your employer is required to allow you up to 12 total weeks a year of leave, which averages out to five missed days per month. However, the company isn’t required to pay you for any of this (beyond what sick time you may have.) That 12 weeks is your total leave, not just intermittent, so if you take 8 weeks maternity leave, that only leaves you 4 weeks (20 intermittent days) for the rest of the year.

Talk to Your Boss

If you have been diagnosed as a Fibromyalgia sufferer it is a worthwhile Endeavour speaking to your supervisor, team leader or indeed managing director. He or she should be aware of your condition and the effects it can have, especially if they are likely to cause you to have time off work.

It is important not to worry about speaking to someone in the workplace about your condition; most employers will be happy to help and it also allows them to compensate for drops in the work load if you have to take time off work unexpectedly.

The ADA

The legal definition of “disabled,” for the purposes of the ADA, is having a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (i.e., walking, talking, and learning.) Any business with at least 15 employees has to abide by the ADA’s requirement of reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, as long as you’re able to perform the essential functions of the job. For example, when I was in college restaurant policy, I worked as a waitress.

The restaurant policy

The restaurant policy said I had to carry everything by hand instead of on a tray. When I developed carpal tunnel disorder and could no longer grip multiple things in one hand, my manager got small trays for me. I also got extra breaks so I could rest and stretch my arms and changed shifts so I didn’t work on back-to-back days.

The accommodations worked. If they hadn’t, I could have been let go. For fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, reasonable accommodation may include things like getting written instructions instead of verbal (because of cognitive dysfunction,) a stool for tasks that are generally done standing or moving the workspace to a quieter location.

Allowing you necessary sick time is part of reasonable accommodation, but only the point that you can still perform the essential functions of the job.

 

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References:

  • Can I Be Fired for Sick Days Due to Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS? Know What the Laws Protect–And What They Don’t By Adrienne Dellwo via Verywell Health

More Resources

Here’s more information on the FMLA and ADA:

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