Suppose you have been fired from your job while being on disability leave because of your serious medical condition. Around the time of your termination or shortly after you are certified as totally disabled – i.e. unable to perform any job indefinitely or forever. Let’s assume that you can prove that the reason for your termination is discriminatory – your total disability and your exercising your right to a medical leave.
Is there a valid disability discrimination and wrongful termination case to be made under the above circumstances?
Theoretically, you can make a claim. However, in practice it would not be worth pursuing because you cannot show any damages. Part of any wrongful termination case is proving your losses and mainly your present and future wage loss as a result of not working. However, If you are unable to work because of your medical condition one way or the other, this gives the employer an obvious argument – you wouldn’t be working for them whether they fired or you or not because of your disabling condition, so the fact that you were fired doesn’t affect your financial situation and your income. This argument makes sense legally and logically.
So, what are your options in this situation?
– Generally, your choices should be governed by what’s best for you and not by trying to make a case against your employer at any cost. And, of course, you should be truthful with your medical providers and with yourself at all times. If you are truly disabled and are unable to work (and you are in a process of obtaining some kind of long-term disability benefits), then you should not be pursuing a disability discrimination case against your employer.
However, if you are only partially disabled, you are able to perform some or most of your job duties with or without accommodation, or if your condition is temporary, and you will soon be released to return to work, then you might have a wrongful termination case worth pursuing, as you will be able to show damages – if not today, in the near future. Likewise, if you tried to return to work to another vacant position for which you are qualified or you made it clear to your employer that you are seeking accommodations and you are able to work, but they fired you anyway, you might have a viable disability discrimination case worth pursuing.
It’s possible that your workplace environment caused or aggravated your disability, as it’s often the case with psychological or psychiatric disabilities aggravated by work stress and office conflicts. However, this type of injury can only be addressed through a workers comp claim, which is a separate process.
To make the right decision in your situation, consult with an experienced employment attorney who can look at all the unique circumstances of your disability and termination and advise you on your legal options.