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Medical Leave of Absence - What do I do? Florida

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  • Medical Leave of Absence - What do I do? Florida

    I was going to let my assistant go for excessive absenteeism and poor job performance and the day I was going to let her go, she left work early and ended up in the hospital. It was determined that she had to have surgery and we did not allow her back until after everything was over (her last surgery kept her out 3 weeks). She went in for her out patient surgery and ended up in the emergency room 2 hours after her release and is now in a drug induced coma with sepsis and possible brain damage. I cannot continue to employ her and have had to hire a replacement. She has not been in the office since June 29th and they do not expect her to be released for another 2 weeks. I cannot continue to pay her and as soon as her pay stops, her health insurance will be cancelled. We have already paid her over 16 days of unearned wages to help her cover her expenses. THe family is expecting me to continue paying her and her health insurance as I have been overly generous in the past however financially, I cannot do all they expect. Can I terminate someone in writing when they are in a drug induced coma? I want her family to start researching long term care, disability, unemployment etc. and they are all looking to me to step up. What are my legal obligations? Help! She is a dear friend of mine and this is hard enough as it is! Thank you!

  • #2
    How long has she been employed with you? How many employees do you have within a 75 mile radius?
    I am trying to determine if FMLA applies. The answer for your situation will depend on whether the employee is covered by FMLA or not.
    I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
    Thomas Jefferson


    • #3
      I have 11 employees including myself. They all live within 20 miles of our office. She has worked for me since 2000 with a 1 year termination that I brought her back from after more training.


      • #4
        FMLA does not apply. It sounds like you have been way more generous than required already and can not financially continue to do so. Very few employers would pay someone for 16 days not worked, especially someone they were going to terminate for absenteeism and performance before they went out. While I can understand not wanting to pile on and that of course the family is in favor of you just continuing to pay her even though she isn't working and continuing the insurance, that is not in any way realistic.

        Do you usually offer insurance continuation coverage at the employee's expense? You are too small an employer to be compelled to offer COBRA but it can be volunarily offered. Check with your carrier about that as an option. I would also check with your carrier about the rules regarding keeping someone on the plan when they are not actually working. Most plans spell out what someone needs to do in order to qualify for coverage. Keeping someone on payroll who doesn't actually work in order to provide them with insurance is fraud and jeopardizes your whole plan.

        Yes, you can terminate by letter even if someone is out for medical reasons. If you want to allow her to remain an employee on an unpaid leave of absence until she is at least awake and able to understand what is going on, that is your perogative. Whether that translates into staying on the insurance is another matter and the odds are not in your favor on that one.

        I know it is very hard but you do need to separate the emotional from the business aspect. You can be supportive as a friend in other ways which have nothing to do with employment. If there is a point person for the family (spouse, parent, sibling, etc.) I would explain to them the plan as far as employment is concerned. Normally I don't like to involve family but in this case I would. I would limit contact and not allow the extended family to question the decision or engage in a discussion about what needs to happen.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


        • #5
          We do offer cobra however the family already stated "they cannot help in anyway" so she or they wouldnt be able to pay for it anyway. I checked with the carrier and they stated as soon as the paycheck stops so does our coverage. Ive paid her 3 days a week for the last 3 weeks just to keep her on payroll but with having to pay the new person on top of it, money is getting too tight. RIght now I just paid my August premium so she will be covered until Sept. 1. I was going to pay her rent personally until Jan of 2013 however I didnt know what legality issues that may have caused or if it would affect her unemployment or disability application. I was thinking that while she was in the hospital and it is pretty evident that she would not be able to return to work anyway, that now would be the best time for the family to start filling out the paperwork to get her started on unemployment, disability or whatever they need to get the ball rolling. I think the hospital has staff on site just for this and once the family leaves, the burden will fall on her daughter who is 8 1/2 months pregnant and due any day now. I am very close with her daughter (former employee of mine as well of course) and have let her know what I was coming down the pike. I am not worried about her or her daughter but the family has already shown some flags that make me sick =\


          • #6
            [QUOTE]ElleMDYou are too small an employer to be compelled to offer COBRA but it can be volunarily offered.[QUOTE]

            Fl. does have their own version of COBRA for small employers. See FSA 627.6692/627.6675 for complete info

            Group health plans issued to small employers must provide that covered employees and beneficiaries who lose coverage because of a qualifying event must be allowed to continue coverage for up to 18 months. Qualified beneficiaries who are determined to be disabled at the time coverage is lost may continue coverage for an additional 11 months (29 months total). Employees and beneficiaries are responsible for paying the premium. Also, employees whose group coverage is terminated are entitled to covert to an individual policy if they were covered under the group plan for at least three months and they make written application for the converted policy within 63 days after termination of the group policy.

            (Just for your info)
            Last edited by Betty3; 07-16-2012, 07:17 AM.
            Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

            Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.


            • #7
              When I was speaking with the family and asked how they would "step up" I recieved the fast answer that no one could help (of course). Her sister then asked me about her health insurance and I was happily going to step up but the insurance company said no. I cannot pay her rent and insurance until this is over with. One or the other. I just dont know which one to do so that it doesnt affect any benefits she may have coming her way whether it be unemployment or disability. Should I mail the letter of termination or hand it to her daughter? Do I put it as of the orignal date (June 29) or last Friday (July 20) which will be her last paycheck? We pay a week behind.


              • #8
                I would make the termination date the last date paid. Keep in mind paying the premium doesn't mean she has coverage. It should mean you get a rebate but you can not just keep someone covered because you have paid the premium.

                What you do as an employer is different from what you do as a friend. It is extremely generous to pay anyone's rent for 6 months, but if you want to do that as a friend, you can. I would be clear it is being done as a friend and be paid from your personal accounts and not the business.

                As for the letter, I would mail it to her home address as the family does not seem very involved. If you want to give someone a copy, it wouldn't be a horrible idea. As for what other services she qualifies for or obtains, that part really is out of your hands as both an employer and friend. You simply have no standing to act in this regard. It is a horrible situation and I don't envy you at all but there is a limit to what you can and even should do. Hospitals do have folks on staff to help guide families in these situations and I would encourage you to point the family in their direction. Your local Social Services Department is another resource.

                Unemployment would only be available to her if she is ready, willing, able and actively seeking work. If she has a disability policy, any terms would be spelled out in that policy. If you are referring to SSDI, it can be a very involved process and there is a 5 month waiting period. Social Security decides when that 5 month clock starts running.

                Whatever you do, I would not base my decisions on what the family says. You need to do what is right for you and your business and friendship. Who steps up from the family to do what is a family matter and one over which you have no control.
                I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


                • #9
                  We were going to terminate her as of the 13th of July and I think the insurance coverage will end at that same time. I guess I feel like a loser for having to do this at this time however I know no other solution at this time. We have researched every aspect here and want to provide the family with information but dont want them to assume because I found it I am stepping up to pay for it or direct it. I didnt even think about the unemployment factor of her actually having to be able to apply for a position. Knowing that she will have nothing when she wakes up...possibly even her apartment is devastating. I know she met with someone months ago about disability covereage but if she took it, it wasnt through the company where we deducted it from her paycheck. The family tried to talk me into firing her last year so she could go on disability and when I asked who was going to step up to cover her expenses during the 2 year + process again every ran the opposite direction. We just talked with the insurance agent and they said upon termination her coverage will end at the last day of the month. I cannot thank you all enough for your help here. I dont have enough revenues to hold an attorney for things such as this and this website has been a God send! Thank you!


                  • #10
                    Try not to feel bad for terminating her & not being able to do more for her. You already went above & beyond. The family needs to step up.
                    Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                    Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.


                    The forum is intended for informational use only and should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for legal advice. The information contained on are opinions and suggestions of members and is not a representation of the opinions of does not warrant or vouch for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any postings or the qualifications of any person responding. Please consult a legal expert or seek the services of an attorney in your area for more accuracy on your specific situation.