Can your employer fire you when you are in the hospital?

Few things have the potential to cause more disruption in your life than an extended hospital stay. After all, in addition to recovering from a serious injury or illness, you must miss work, family engagements and other activities. With some luck, though, you may bounce back quickly.

If you lose your job during your hospital stay, your road to normalcy may be longer than you expect. Fortunately, some employees in Arizona have a legal right to return to work after a hospital stay.

A note on at-will employment

Before looking at the protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act, it is important to understand at-will employment. Generally, employers and employees have the option of ending the employment relationship at any time for any reason or no reason at all. There is an exception, however, as employers may not violate federal or state employment laws when terminating employment.


The FMLA typically applies to employers who have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks of the year. If your employer falls into this category, you probably benefit from the FMLA’s leave protections. Still, to qualify for leave under the FMLA, you must have been with your employer for at least a year. You also must have completed at least 1,250 hours of work in the prior year.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you likely can take unpaid leave for your hospital stay. Ultimately, if your employer refuses to allow you to return to work after you recuperate, you may have a valid cause of action under the FMLA.