Can You Be Fired While on Leave With Disability?

California’s employment laws and employee protections are relatively progressive compared to most other states. State laws protect the rights and needs of people with disabilities in the workplace in California. One of these laws protects you from job termination for unlawful or discriminatory reasons related to your disability. It may surprise you to discover, however, that your employer does have the right to fire you in many scenarios. Receiving temporary or permanent disability benefits does not protect you from job termination in California.

FMLA Protections

Multiple state and federal laws protect your rights as a worker with a disability in California. One is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a state law that entitles covered employees to take leave for specific medical and/or family reasons without fear of losing their jobs. The FMLA grants 12 workweeks of job-protected leave per year for the birth of a child, the adoption or fostering of a child, a serious health condition, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or for a relative who is a covered military member.

If you were in an accident, either inside or outside of work, that gave you a disability or serious health condition, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of medical leave without fear of losing your job. Your employer does not have to pay you for these 12 weeks, however. The FMLA only applies to covered employers. These are private-sector employers with 50 or more workers, as well as public agencies and elementary and secondary schools. Eligible employees covered under the FMLA must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months, and worked at a location where the company has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

ADA Protections

On a federal level, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) may protect you from job termination for taking leave as someone with a disability. The ADA makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of disability, as long as that employee can still fulfill the essential functions of the job. Under the ADA, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to someone with a disability so that person can do his or her job. One of these reasonable accommodations may be time off of work.

If you need to take time off work because of your disability, such as for a doctor’s appointment or physical therapy, your employer legally has to give it to you, under the requirements of the ADA. If the work-leave is a form of reasonable disability accommodation, your employer cannot fire you for your request. The amount of leave an employer must grant you, however, depends on the job and your disability. An employer does not have to give you so much time off as to cause the company undue hardship.

Get Help From a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer

If an accident gave you a disability, you could qualify for income protection through short- or long-term disability insurance. Receiving this type of benefit, however, does not come with guaranteed job protections. If your disability means you can no longer perform the essential functions of your job, your employer will have the right to terminate your employment. Your boss could also have the right to fire you if you take more than your 12 job-protected weeks of leave under the FMLA.

The FMLA and the ADA work together to protect people with disabilities in California. While these protections are not fail-safe, they can protect you from wrongful termination. You may be the victim of wrongful termination if your boss did not have a lawful reason to let you go. If you were taking your 12 weeks of FMLA leave when your employer fired you, for example, it is wrongful termination. Talk to an employment lawyer in Los Angeles for a review of your particular case. A lawyer can let you know whether or not you are the victim of wrongful termination in California.