Under employment laws, a leave of absence occurs when an employee needs to take time off from work for an extended period of time. In most cases, this involves breaks of several days or weeks, mostly due to issues such as:
- Medical issues
- Family emergencies
The exact length of the leave of absence, as well as issues such as payments, work substitutions, etc., will depend on the employer as well as state laws. In most cases, leaves of absence are taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law guarantees that a person who takes a valid leave for certain family or medical purposes can return to their position after taking leave. There are of course, many exceptions to this law.
Can a Person be Fired During a Leave of Absence?
In most cases, employers cannot fire a worker who has taken a valid leave of absence under the FMLA or under similar laws such as those governing pregnancy leave, military leave, and other types of leave. However, there are certain exceptions that employees should understand:
- Size of the company: FMLA laws may not apply to all companies, especially those that have less than 50 employees.
- “Top-earners”- Workers who are in the category of the top 10% earners in the company may be denied their same position when returning if it would constitute a “substantial” or grievous financial burden to the business.
- Layoffs: While employees generally can’t be individually terminated, they may still be subject to company-wide layoffs that occur during the time of leave
- Improper filing: Termination may occur if the person was not actually on a valid FMLA or other type of leave (for instance, if they did not provide notice to their employer that they were taking leave)
Lastly, besides termination issues, issues regarding pay and wages during leave can also occur, as policies will vary from company to company and from state to state.
What If I Was Terminated During a Leave of Absence?
If you’ve been terminated during a valid leave of absence under the FMLA or similar laws, you may be entitled to legal remedies. These can include remedies such as being reinstated to your previous position, legal damages for lost wages (if applicable), and other actions. You can also prevent a wrongful termination during a leave of absence by ensuring that you inform your employer properly and follow all procedures under law and according to work policies.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Leave or Absence Issue?
Employees have various rights when it comes to taking a leave of absence. You may need to hire an employment lawyer if you need legal assistance or representation with a termination issue. Your lawyer can provide you with advice and legal research for your claim. Also, if you need assistance during court meetings, your lawyer can be on hand to represent you.