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.