If you suffer from a disability or serious health condition that requires you to take time off work, a few different laws may protect your job during your medical leave of absence. Your job may be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or federal, state, and city disability discrimination laws. Each of these laws provide different protections and operate separate and apart from each other, so even if the FMLA doesn't protect your job, the disability discrimination laws may.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If you need to take time off work because you are suffering from a serious health condition, it may be possible to do so while keeping your job under the FMLA. Under the FMLA, employees may take 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year while keeping their jobs if they: (1) have worked for more than 1 year for an employer that has 50 or more local employees, and (2) have worked at least 1250 hours in the prior 1 year period. Leave may be taken as a single uninterrupted block of time or in smaller increments (intermittently). When you return to work, you must be restored to the same job or an equivalent job.
Disability Discrimination Laws
Disability discrimination laws make it illegal for a covered employer to terminate your employment or take another negative action against you (i.e., reducing your pay or demoting you) based on your disability. These laws also require your employer to give you a "reasonable accommodation" for your disability, which may include a leave of absence from work. Unlike the FMLA, there is no specific amount of medical leave that the disability discrimination laws provide. Your employer must speak with you regarding your specific needs to determine if there is a way to accommodate you. Your employer may not terminate your employment merely because you have been out of work for "too long".
What Are Your Obligations?
If you need to take medical leave, you must get your employer's permission before doing so. Under the FMLA, you must provide notice as far in advance as practicable (in most cases, 30 days is sufficient unless your need for leave is unexpected). Even if you do not qualify for FMLA, providing as much notice as possible is best practice. Provide your employer with a date that you plan to return to work, even if your doctor must later change that date.
Questions? Speak With A Serrins Fisher Attorney
Although the FMLA and disability discrimination laws protect you from being fired for taking leave, there are several exceptions to this rule. If you believe that you are wrongfully being denied leave or were terminated because you exercised your rights under the FMLA or disability discrimination laws, contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Serrins Fisher LLP. Our attorneys can listen to your situation and ensure that your rights are protected.