What Is My Recourse After Being Fired While On Leave Of Absence?

wrongful termination

Wrongful termination is when a company fires you for illegal, unlawful, or legally unauthorized reasons. These include reasons that violate federal, state, or local laws or breach the terms of an employment agreement. Sometimes wrongful termination occurs because of leave of absence violations in Orange County. If that happens to you, our employment attorneys in Orange County may be able to help.

Can You Be Fired When On A Leave Of Absence?

Workers may need extended time off from their jobs for family or health reasons. The time the worker is off their job is referred to as a leave of absence, and state and federal laws may prohibit the company from firing an employee on their leave of absence.

Specifically, a leave of absence refers to an extended period – such as a few weeks or months – when a worker is not at work because of family or medical reasons. Common reasons for a leave of absence include dealing with a personal medical condition or that of a family member, or for pregnancy and caring for a newborn.

Most companies give workers an employee handbook when they start their job. The employee handbook would likely have information that deals with time off from work. The handbook might describe paid and unpaid sick leave policies, paid time off, and vacation leave.

There also are some instances in which state or federal laws require the employer to give workers a leave of absence. Most of these laws state that employees who go on a leave of absence can return to their current job. Also, these laws generally contain anti-retaliation rules prohibiting companies from retaliation when a worker has requested time off. Retaliation could be demoting, firing, or suspending a worker for taking leave.

Overview Of The Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA is a federal law that mandates that certain employers offer unpaid leave to their workers for up to 12 weeks in one year. Also, employers covered by the law must offer workers health benefits while on a leave of absence. Usually, a worker who takes leave is entitled to their job when they return to work.

The FMLA addresses employers with at least 50 workers with at least 20 weeks of work per year. Also, the law does not allow certain workers to go on a leave of absence. These included ‘key employees’ who are 10% of the firm’s income earners.

You also may be entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under this federal law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. Sometimes, providing reasonable accommodation could be in the form of giving a worker more leave than is usually available.

But the statute requires only reasonable accommodation, not an unreasonable accommodation, so if the leave you request imposes an undue hardship on your employer, you may not receive the requested leave. If you are unsure whether this situation applies to you, consider talking to one of our employment attorneys in California for more information.

Overview Of The California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

The CFRA gives eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid and job-protected leave to deal with their serious health problems or a family member’s. This leave of absence is also available for a parent to bond with their new child. The law also requires employers to give workers disabled by childbirth, pregnancy, and related medical issues job-protected leave (unpaid).

Also, the CFRA entitles more workers to leave than under federal law. Employers with as few as five employees must comply with the CFRA. Further, the CFRA states that you can go on leave to care for your domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

To apply for CFRA leave, you must generally request it 30 days in advance. If the need is unforeseeable, you must provide notice immediately. You should submit a Request for Leave of Absence form to your department head or leave team in the HR department. If the leave of absence is for your own health condition or that of a family member, a Certification of Healthcare Provider form is required.

When A Worker Can Be Terminated While On Leave

Under the FMLA and CFRA, you may be entitled to a leave of absence to deal with a medical condition or family situation. This means that your company cannot terminate you because you used your right to a leave of absence. However, this does not mean you cannot be terminated under any circumstances.

Employers could terminate you in some situations when you are on a leave of absence, but they can only do so if they have legally valid reasons. Some potentially legal reasons they could terminate an employee on a leave of absence include:

  • You had performance problems before you took leave.
  • They no longer need a person in your job position.
  • You were terminated because of a layoff or location closing.

They may not fire you for simply being on a leave of absence. If you were terminated while on a leave of absence, you should speak to an experienced California wrongful termination attorney. They can determine if your rights were violated. Even if the employer claims they have a legitimate reason for firing you, speak to an attorney to learn your rights.

What To Do If You Are Illegally Fired In California

Employees who have been wrongfully terminated, such as while on a leave of absence, may be able to sue their former employer in court. If a court determines the employee was fired counter to federal or state law, the employee may be entitled to compensation for economic losses.

If the lawsuit is successful, an illegally fired employee could receive compensatory damages, such as lost wages, benefits, and funds for emotional distress. Occasionally, the court may assess punitive damages to the employer where the impact of the termination was egregious.

Contact Our Employment Attorneys In Orange County

You may have legal options if you think you were unjustly fired while on a leave of absence. If you think you may be able to file a claim against your employer based on your specific situation, speak to our employment attorneys in Orange County at Law Office of Joseph Richards, P.C., today at (888) 883-6588. An employment attorney can determine if you were wrongfully terminated and describe your rights under state and federal law.

California Employee Rights You Should Know

employee rights

Going through a conflict with your employer can be challenging. Unfortunately, many companies in California may violate employee rights implicating discrimination, unemployment, wages, and more. If this happens to you, it is critical to understand your legal rights and take action to protect your interests and freedoms. Speak to our Inland Empire employment attorney at Law Office of Joseph Richards, P.C., for a free consultation regarding potential legal advice.

California Worker Rights

If you work in California, you are the beneficiary of some of the country’s most protective worker rights laws. Federal law sets minimum standards for employee rights, but Californians enjoy additional rights and benefits related to discrimination, harassment, time off, and more. Important worker rights that every Californian enjoys include:

Employment Discrimination

California has some of the most protective laws protecting you against employment discrimination. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects you from discrimination based on race, gender, disability, age (if you are over 40), and veteran status. FEHA rules against discrimination usually apply to companies with at least five employees. Speak to an employment attorney in the Inland Empire if you are not sure if this law applies to your company.

Additionally, you are protected against workplace discrimination by federal laws. However, the number of protected groups in these laws is narrower than in California. These laws include:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • The Age Discrimination Act

California employers also may not discriminate against you for being pregnant, giving birth, or having any related medical issues related to pregnancy. The law also bans employers from denying or interfering with your pregnancy-related rights in the workplace. Your employer also must do the following related to pregnancy:

  • Provide reasonable accommodations for your medical requirements for being pregnant or giving birth. For example, your company must modify your work duties temporarily, if necessary, offer you a chair to sit in, allow for more frequent bathroom breaks, etc.
  • Move you to a less physically strenuous position if you have special needs related to pregnancy.
  • Provide pregnancy disability leave for up to four months. Your job must be there when you are no longer disabled because of pregnancy. However, your employer also can put you in a comparable position. Note that taking paid leave will not protect you from everyday employment actions, such as layoffs. Pregnancy disability is not automatically four months; your doctor will determine the time you need off, up to four months.
  • Offer a reasonable break time and use of an area to pump breast milk if desired.

Also, you may be entitled to leave under the California Family Rights Act of 1993 if you have been employed for more than 12 months for at least 1,250 hours before the day you want to take leave. Your leave can take up to 12 work weeks to give birth or adopt a child in one year. The law only mandates unpaid leave, but your employer may require you to use accrued paid leave when taking this leave of absence.

Workers’ Compensation

If you are hurt in California, your employer must pay for reasonably necessary medical care for illnesses and injuries related to your work. This is known as workers’ compensation. One of the benefits of California’s workers’ compensation laws is it does not matter who is at fault for the injury. Therefore, you may also be entitled to workers’ compensation regardless of your immigrant status.

Those who are hurt at work and who face discrimination or retaliation for filing a claim for workers’ comp may want to speak to an Inland Empire employment attorney.

Wages And Breaks

California employers must pay employees what they are owed and offer meal and rest breaks. Withholding wages is wage theft, and you should speak to an employment attorney if that happens.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, the minimum wage in California is $15.50 per hour. Previously, the pay differed based on whether the company had 25 or fewer employees or 26 or more. Today, the wage is the same.

If you are paid by contract or day, your wages are equal to at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. Note that tips are separate, and your employer cannot count them as part of regular wages. However, a few types of workers do not have to get the minimum wage, including some sales professionals, camp counselors, and close members of the family.

Overtime must be paid at a rate of 1.5 times the regular wage. For most jobs, any hours over eight in a day or 40 in a week must be paid overtime. Also, if you work over 12 hours daily, you may be entitled to double time.

Safety And Health

Your employer is required by law to keep workers safe on the job. Some of the safety and health requirements under California law are:

  • Ensuring the workplace is safe by finding and fixing health and safety risks promptly.
  • A written workplace health and safety program, sometimes called an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
  • Informing employees about hazards in the workplace and providing training on workplace safety.
  • Provide workers’ compensation insurance and compensation for medical bills for job-related illnesses and injuries.
  • Tracking all job-related injuries and illnesses that need more treatment than first aid. Some California employers also must log illnesses and injuries and post summaries.

Furthermore, California and OSHA regulations state what California employers must do to protect employees from specific dangers. These regulations are listed in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations and the State of California Department of Industrial Relations. Employers must follow these rules; if they do not, the state or OSHA can fine them.

Contact Our Inland Empire Employment Attorney

All California workers need to know their employee rights in the workplace. If you think your rights have been violated at work regarding the protections mentioned in this article, you do not have to tolerate it. Speak to our Inland Empire employment attorney by calling to schedule an appointment for a free consultation today at Law Office of Joseph Richards, P.C. at (888) 883-6588.