If you suffer from Hepatitis C, can you be fired from your job because you have this condition?
Question: When I was employed in my new job last year, I worked without incident throughout the year. After some time I disclosed to my employer that I suffer from Hepatitis C and continued to work while started a new course of treatment. Unfortunately, it made me quite ill and caused me to miss some work and, as a result, I was fired from my job. What are my legal rights – could my employer legally fire me?
Answer: People who suffer from Hepatitis C might be afforded some protection under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which is federal law – 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213.
Qualified Disabilities Under the ADA
The condition must first qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A qualifying disability under the ADA is a condition which seriously affects one of your main life functions or activities. This is quite a broad statement and the facts of your individual case will determine whether or not your condition qualifies as a disability. Past cases have shown that some people with a severe case of Hepatitis C are considered to have a disability while other cases, some of which are less severe in nature, have been deemed not to be a qualifying disability.
Employers Subject to the ADA and Medical Leave
Employers with more than fifteen people working for them are required under the ADA to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability. They are also prohibited from discriminating against employees who have a disability.
Previous case law has shown that an employer could give an employee with a disability an adjusted work schedule or extended medical leave as a reasonable accommodation that comports with the law. However, other cases have also found that granting a long period of sick leave might be considered too much time to be considered a reasonable accommodation.
There is also another law which may cover you for up to twelve weeks unpaid leave. The federal FMLA law (Family and Medical Leave Act – 29 U.S.C. § 2601 and following sections) may cover you depending on how many people are employed at your job, how serious your condition is and how long you have been working at your place of employment. If you qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA, then it should be offered to you by your employer. However, even if you have a serious condition, it may not qualify as a disability under the ADA and you may not be protected under this law.
Legal Information Sources
You can always contact the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to obtain more information about your rights regarding your disability. The EEOC is the federal agency in charge of enforcing the ADA. You can find information about your local EEOC office at www.eeoc.gov. And if you want more information about the Americans with Disabilities Act you can find this at www.disability.gov. If you need to speak to a lawyer to better understand whether you have a potential lawsuit for discrimination or harassment, you can (i) call your local bar association for a referral, (ii) get a free case review on a legal website, or (iii) find a lawyer in a directory.