If you are on approved leave, you may have a claim if you are terminated.
If you take medical leave, you don’t want to have to worry about whether your job is safe while you are focusing on your health. Yet most employees in the United States (including in California) are at-will, which means that they can be fired at any time, and for any reason, as long as it is not illegal. This can cause significant anxiety for anyone who takes leave due to a disability.
As a California employment lawyer can explain, both federal and state law govern medical leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees can take up to twelve (12) weeks of leave in a twelve (12) month period for family and medical reasons. During this time, the employee’s job is protected. Not all employees are covered under FMLA. To qualify, an individual’s employer must have at least fifty (50) workers (who work within 75 miles of each other). An employee must have worked at least one year and 1,250 hours for their employer in the preceding year.
The California Family Rights At (CFRA) also requires certain employers (with 50 or more employees) to provide covered employees with up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period for a number of reasons, including for an employee’s own serious health condition. Other laws in California, such as the California Pregnancy Disability Leave, allow for additional leave time as necessary.
Under FMLA, an employee must be restored to the same job or an equivalent job upon returning from leave. Workers are not guaranteed the actual job that they had before taking leave. However, the job must be virtually identical in terms of pay, benefits, and other conditions of employment (such as shift).
Similarly, under the CFRA, an employee’s job is protected while they are on medical leave. They cannot be demoted while on leave, their pay cannot be reduced, and if their job is no longer available, an equivalent job should be made available.
While on protected leave, either under FMLA or CFRA, you cannot be fired. If your employer does fire you or otherwise takes an adverse employment action, then you may have a claim for against your employer. A skilled California employment lawyer can work with you to help you determine if you have a claim.
If you have a disability, you can also request reasonable accommodations from your employer so that you can return to work. Before firing you, your employer is required to attempt to make the reasonable accommodation that would allow you to do your job. If there is a reasonable accommodation (like changing your shift or allowing you to sit while working) that will not result in an undue hardship to your employer and that will allow you to perform the essential functions of your job, your employer cannot terminate you.
If you were fired while on disability leave, you may have a claim for wrongful termination. If your employer took other action against you, such as demoting you, reducing your pay or changing your job in a fundamental way, then you may have a claim for disability discrimination.
At PLBSH, we are dedicated to helping employees who have faced discrimination in the workplace achieve justice. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a seasoned California employment lawyer.