Fired because couldn’t work due of back pain, and denied unemployment.

I was let go from a job because I was going through severe back pain and have to leave to have back surgery. I worked there for 7 months. I filed for unemployment, but was denied it because the company doctor had everyone sign a statement saying I couldn’t work and couldn’t do my job anymore. So, now I have no income and am facing major surgery.  What can I do?

Posted 03-03-2013

Steve Duggan replies:

I am very sorry to hear about this situation.

  1. Unfortunately, as to unemployment first, in all states if you are unable to work you cannot draw disability.  You can challenge an initial decision to deny unemployment, by asking for a hearing before a judge.  However, the time limit is very short. You should check the notice denying your claim for benefits to see if the time has expired and/or check with a local attorney about your rights. Arizona is one of many states that does not have a state program of disability insurance for periods when you can’t work due to disability. So you can’t get compensation from the state for periods when you can’t work. Once you are cleared to work again, you should file for unemployment while you are looking for a job. You still may be able to draw benefits then.
  2. You didn’t mention the cause of your back pain. If it is job related, even if only partially, workers compensation benefits should have been payable (including medical, prescription, and wage loss compensation) and you may still present a claim for such benefits even though you are no longer employed there. Contact your employer’s HR department if you think you may qualify, or contact a workers compensation lawyer in your area.
  3. Finally, if your disability from work will last more than six months, you may be qualified for social security disability during that period of disability. You can submit such an application online at, and get other information at the website.
  4. Your back condition probably qualifies as a physical disability. Disabilities do not have to be permanent for an individual to be protected against discriminatory terminations, etc., and your employer may have failed to consider a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

Again, you should consult with an attorney in your area. Good luck with your search, and your recovery!


Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Steve Duggan graduated from the Law School at the University of Notre Dame while on active duty in the Air Force. He has extensive experience representing management litigating cases of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment. Steve also has experience in all phases of administrative litigation of unfair labor practice charges, and class and individual complaints of employment discrimination. He has been an instructor of seminars for supervisors and managers on labor management relations and other personnel issues, and for lawyers in basic and advanced trial advocacy courses. Steve came on board with Fair Measures in 1998.