While California is an “at-will” state (employers are free to terminate employees at any time), the issue of being fired while sick isn’t always cut and dry. If your employer has a sick leave policy and you’re fired for using your sick leave, you should consult with an attorney immediately to establish if your termination violated California law.

Paid sick leave in California: What’s the law?

In California, most employees are entitled to paid sick leave. In accordance with the Healthy Workplaces/Healthy Families Act of 2014, workers are entitled to paid sick leave if they work 30 or more days within a year. Employees accumulate time off at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours they work. However, the worker must have been employed for more than 90 days to use their paid sick leave.

Certain cities have their own sick leave policies. In Los Angeles, sick leave is provided if the employee works at least two hours in a particular week. Other laws may apply to protect a worker’s job if they run out of paid leave and still need to take additional sick time.

Workers who are classified as “independent contractors” are frequently left out of these policies. However, employers often classify some workers improperly as independent contractors, which is in violation of California law. If you believe you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor, consult an attorney immediately to determine what rights you have.

If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against or retaliated against for using or requesting sick leave, consult with an employment attorney today.

What are your options? 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family. The FMLA will protect your job if you’re out for an extended period of time. If you were retaliated against for requesting or using family medical leave, you should consult with an employment law specialist.

Emergency Situations

During the coronavirus pandemic, companies like Walmart enacted emergency leave policies. In the Walmart example, if employees are required to be quarantined, they’ll receive up to two weeks pay. Policies like this ensure that you will not be fired for taking sick leave, allowing you to fully recover and stop the spread of COVID-19. Uber is enacting a similar policy for drivers who have been quarantined.

Employee Coronavirus Resources

Two Important Questions

What if your job makes you sick?

That’s an important question. If you become sick or injured due to your employment, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. This can be difficult to prove in some cases, but you cannot be fired for a workplace injury. Consult with an employment attorney.

What to do if you’ve been fired for taking sick leave?

If you’ve been fired for taking sick leave, you should contact an employment lawyer immediately to establish if your termination was legal.


Because California is an “at-will” employment state (employers are free to terminate employees at any time) employees think that they have no rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Learn more about your employee rights. Contact us today.

Lawyers for Employee and Consumer Rights (LFECR) is a leading California employment law firm. With more than forty remote attorneys, LFECR is prepared to work on behalf of their clients anywhere in California.

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