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Can I be fired while on medical leave?

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  • Can I be fired while on medical leave?

    I have been complaining to my manager and v.p. for months about the work environment. Working weekends, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays to ensure client deliver deadlines are met. I have expressed the need for the company to correct these issues (I am a single parent). In addition I have been working for 3 weeks without a properly installed keyboard. They had the audacity to tell me to have a relative come in on the weekend. Pay them on the side and then submit a false mileage expense reimbursement claim to get my money back.

    On Wednesday, 10/6/04 I had enough. I advised my manager that I was going to contact HR and that I was at a breaking point. I had a severe headached again and this was just not right. The following morning I woke up with an even worse headache. I went to the doctor and she prescribed Xanax and 600 mg Ibuprofen for the pain. She also referred me to a Mental Health Specialist to provide an outlet for the problems.

    I had also contacted HR on this day and filed a grievance for many things that had gone unresolved in my department. I advised of the concern with the keyboard, I'm still waiting on an expense reimbursement from a July cell phone bill, headaches, pain in the shoulders, and I was just tired and I wanted them to do something. My breaking point was at the end of the day on 10/06/04 I broke down in tears while discussing with a colleague who also advised me to file a grievance.

    Today, while I am still on medical leave (day 3), my employer contacted me and terminated my employment over the phone. I told them that I am on medical leave and any comments or discussions they wish to have would have to be postponed until my physician returns me to work.

    Please advise what my rights are? Can they fire me while the doctor has me on disability? Can they get away with this? I am also the only African American in my company. I've been stuck for 2 years in position that I was not hired to perform. I have a Master's Degree in Negotiation and Conflict Management and 90% of my time is spent processing billing.

    Last edited by Tanya; 10-11-2004, 08:15 PM. Reason: Add State

  • #2
    Termination While on Leave

    You can be terminated while on leave, if that is the practice of the employer to do so with others and if the reason for the termination is not discrimination on the basis of age, disability, national origin, pregnancy status, race, religion or gender (and, in California, sexual orientation) and/or the termination is not because of the employee filed a workers compensation claim or complained about discrimiination.

    Just because an employee is of a protected "status", such as minority status, does not automatically mean that the person is protected from termination for any reason...only against illegal discrimination, etc.

    It is not illegal to terminate someone on the basis that they complain about their schedule or because they complain about their supervisor for behaviors that are non-discriminatory.

    So, my questions for you is this?

    1) Did you file a workers compensation claim for your headaches, etc.? If so, then the fact that they terminated you may be suspect. If you haven't filed, you probably cannot claim retaliation for workers compensation.
    2) You mentioned that you are a minority. Are you implying that the reason they have terminated is because of your minority status? If so, that can be seen as discrimination...especially if there is a pattern of discrimination (such as singling out other African Americans). If you believe it is so, you should file a claim with the state Fair Employment and Housing.
    3) You mention a poor keyboard. Did you file a claim with OSHA about it? If so, you are protected against retaliation for doing so.
    4) If you worked at least 1250 hours over the past year with your former employer and your former employer has at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius, your employer was required to offer you FMLA and the California Leave benefits. Did they? If so, did you accept them and comply? The reason is that the laws protect you from being terminated when you are out on leave. However, there are strict notification and documentation requirements on the part of both parties.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.
    Lillian Connell

    Forum Moderator