Is Prolonged Disability Leave Covered Under the FMLA?
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects your job when you have to take time off work for a pressing medical reason.
This could be anything from looking after a sick child to having medical treatment for cancer. The FMLA is a federal law and is valid in all U.S. states. It means that your employer must keep your job for you for up to 12 weeks while you take medical leave without pay.
Medical leave includes what may be regarded as “disability” leave. It does not mean you get paid during that time and you will have to make financial arrangements to keep paying the bills. You may be able to take more than 12 weeks off if necessary, depending on the state you work in.
Many states have similar legislation top the FMLA that covers medical leave. Some are more generous than others, but all work in tandem to federal legislation.
If your employer terminates your employment because you have taken prolonged disability or medical leave which is less than the time period protected by the FMLA or equivalent state laws, you may be able to take legal action to recover damages. An employment lawyer will be a useful asset in these circumstances.
How the ADA Protects Those With Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1990. It prevents employers and other organizations from discriminating against you because of your disability. If you take leave because of your disability, it means that your employer cannot fire you because of your disability.
Basically, you have the same rights to take leave under the ADA as any employee without a similar disability.
To be covered by the ADA, your specific disability must match the criteria as defined by the ADA. An employment lawyer will know whether this is the case. Even if your disability doesn’t quite meet the criteria as defined by the AFA, your termination may still have violated the FMLA or equivalent state employment legislation and this will mean that you could sue your employer for wrongful termination.
What to Do If Fired After Taking Disability Leave
If you have been fired after taking disability leave, you may be able to take legal action against your employer if your rights under the ADA or the FMLA have been violated.
As with other similar litigation, you will need concrete evidence that your employer has violated federal or state law that protects your right to be employed despite you taking disability leave. For example, you will need to prove that your employer actually terminated your employment because you took leave and not for some other reason which the employer thinks is justified, such as breach of employment contract, dishonesty, etc.
You will also need to show that you were ready to return to work before the deadline for protected leave expired as determined by the FMLA or equivalent state law.
If your employment contract was protected by the ADA, you will need to show that the particular disability you had was defined as such by the ADA. The ADA does not have a specific list of disabilities, so any disability that you have must fit the criteria established by the act.
The ADA defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment." Serious medical conditions like epilepsy, diabetes and cancer would all be considered disabilities under the ADA.
This means that anyone who takes time off work because of their medical disability is protected by the ADA, as well as by the FMLA.
Speak With an Employment Law Attorney
If you have been fired because you took prolonged disability leave and you believe that the action was unjustified, you should first discuss the matter with an employment law attorney. The attorney will be able to judge whether a federal or state law, such as the FMLA or ADA has been violated and will then advise you whether you have good grounds to take legal action.
The attorney will know what sort of evidence you need to support a case against your employer and will be able to represent you when the case goes to court.