What to Do If You Are Punished or Fired for Taking Sick Leave By Dan Atkerson on April 30, 2024

Employee fired with a box of her desk belongings

Workplace retaliation can take many forms, including being fired or passed over for a promotion. If you are wondering what to do if you are punished or fired for taking sick leave, the answer is simple: reach out to a labor attorney like myself.

As a seasoned employment attorney, I have helped employees protect their rights for more than 40 years. During a free case review, I can determine if you have grounds for a claim. My employment and labor law office in Allen, TX, welcomes clients from all over North Texas, including nearby cities like Plano, Frisco, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington.

You Have Limited Time to File a Claim

If you believe any of your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) were violated, you have two years to file a claim.

If you believe that violation was an intentional act of retaliation on the part of your employer, you have three years.

The sooner you consult an employment law attorney, the less difficult it will be to gather pertinent evidence.


Woman on phone asking about FMLA leave requirements

Qualifying for FMLA Leave

The FMLA gives eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period if they need treatment for a serious health condition, or if they need to care for a family member with a serious health condition. You can take FMLA intermittently during the 12-month period rather than all at once.

You are eligible for FMLA leave if you:

  • Work for a covered employer (any employer with 50 or more employees, a federal or state government job, and any position at a public or private elementary or secondary school).
  • Work 1,250 hours during the 12 months leading up to the beginning of leave.
  • Work at a place where 50 or more employees work (or within 75 miles of the location).
  • Have worked for the employer for 12 months, either consecutively or otherwise.

What Is Considered a Serious Health Condition?

There are six qualifying categories of serious health conditions:

  • Inpatient care (overnight care in a hospital or other facility).
  • Being incapacitated for three days due to illness or injury that keeps you away from work. Subsequent care is also covered.
  • Pregnancy. You can also take leave for pre-natal care before giving birth.
  • Chronic health issues; this includes conditions like asthma that may require intermittent leave.
  • Being permanently incapacitated. This typically pertains to employees who take time to care for loved ones with cancer or Ahlzeimers.
  • Requiring multiple treatments such as chemotherapy or dialysis.

FMLA Leave Applies to You and Members of Your Family

These categories can apply to conditions you are personally experiencing or those experienced by a spouse, child, or parent who needs your assistance. Subsequent care related to these circumstances can also qualify.

Get Advice and Counsel From an Employment Attorney

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by your employer for taking the leave you are granted under FMLA, I can help protect your rights and your livelihood.

During your free consultation, I can help to determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit, which can lead to compensation for lost wages and other losses.


Man stressed out while at job due to hostile workplace

Examples of Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation can take many forms, including:

  • Lowered pay
  • Changes in scheduling
  • Demotion
  • Termination
  • Denied promotion
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Disciplinary action for questionable reasons
  • Changes in work responsibilities

The Burden of Proof Requires Knowledge of Texas Labor Laws

Considering that there are countless reasons an employer could give for taking any of these actions, proving an act of retaliation is difficult. This is especially true when it comes to wrongful termination from your job.

Texas has been an at-will employment state since 1988. That means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time, and they do not have to give a reason.

Did I Actually Experience Retaliation for Taking Sick Leave?

Being terminated is hardly ever an amicable situation, and the former employee may feel that they have suffered retaliation when they actually have not. For example, if you inform your employer of your intent to take maternity leave and are subsequently fired, this doesn't prove that the firing was an act of retaliation.

However, certain evidence could support your claim of workplace retaliation. For example:

  • Your employer may have a history of firing employees who request or take maternity leave.
  • Coworkers may be able to testify that they have observed hostility on your employer's part toward others who have taken maternity leave.
  • You may have written correspondence indicating hostility regarding your leave.

Compile Evidence to Be Reviewed by an Employment Lawyer

If you believe you have been punished or fired for taking sick leave to which you are entitled under FMLA, it is crucial that you gather and preserve all evidence supporting this claim.

Other forms of evidence, such as the testimony of coworkers, may be more difficult to use since those coworkers may fear retaliation themselves. However, whistleblower retaliation—the act of punishing or firing an employee for reporting wrongdoing—is also illegal.

An employment law attorney like myself can help you take all the proper steps to protect your rights. I can also help you identify, preserve, and present the evidence needed to prove that your rights were violated.


Office co-workers standing together in a show of solidarity

Why Should I Take Legal Action?

Suddenly finding yourself without an income can place a number of strains on your life. Meanwhile, you may be underearning if your employer refuses to promote you.

When a violation of your rights eliminates or diminishes your livelihood, a lawsuit can help you collect compensation for these losses. If you were fired in retaliation for taking sick time, this compensation can be invaluable as you look for your next job.

You May Have the Ability to Protect Fellow Workers

Taking action can also benefit others in the workforce. If an employer believes they can commit these acts of retaliation without any consequences, they will likely do it again in the future.

Standing up for your rights can prevent similar violations.

Request Your Free Legal Consultation Today

I’ve spent years fighting for workers in Allen, Plano, Frisco, and communities throughout Greater Dallas and North Texas. I will not back down in the face of large companies or corporations since workers deserve an advocate for fair treatment by their employers. During a free consultation, I can determine if you have a case and help you assert your rights under FMLA and other state and federal laws.

To get a free case evaluation, contact my Allen labor law office today.



Attorney Dan A. Atkerson

Dan A. Atkerson
Dan A. Atkerson has worked as a civil employment law attorney in DFW since 1984. He has extensive knowledge of state and federal labor statutes and is a member of both the State Bar of Texas and the Dallas Bar Association.

Read Dan Atkerson's Full Bio | All Posts by Dan Atkerson

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Dan Atkerson

Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

Dan A. Atkerson has been protecting the rights of North Texas employees for over nearly four decades. He is affiliated with several prestigious legal organizations, including: 

  • The State Bar of Texas
  • The Dallas Bar Association
  • The United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit
  • Texas Supreme Court and all Texas trial and appellate courts
  • Texas federal courts for the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas

Through aggressive, knowledgeable representation, he has helped clients all over the state reach significant verdicts and settlements. To schedule a consultation at our law firm, request an appointment online or call us at (214) 383-3606.

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