You suffered a slip and fall incident and broke both your arms. You are currently at home, on disability leave, while your broken bones heal. You will have to be off work for three months. Since you are on disability leave, your job is protected, right? You should not have anything to worry about, right?
You would be wrong. There are state and federal laws regarding disability leave, but the laws are complicated. There are situations in which an employer can legally fire you while you are on disability leave, but there are also situations in which such a firing would be considered wrongful termination. Read on to find out if your job is at risk.
What New York Law Says
New York is an at-will state when it comes to employment. This means that employers have the right to lay off or fire an employee for any reason and at any time. The only exceptions are if a law or agreement forbids this. Therefore, if any type of law offers benefits to employees, such as paid time off, then employees legally cannot be disciplined or retaliated against for doing so. One such law that applies to disabled employees is FMLA.
Job Protection Under FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law available to eligible employees: those who have worked for their employer (who has at least 50 employees) for at least one year and 1,250 hours. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for family or medical reasons. While workers are not guaranteed their actual job, they must be restored to the same job or an equivalent job once they return from leave. This means the job must be identical in terms of pay and benefits.
While on FMLA leave, an employee cannot be fired. The only exception is if business necessity. If the company is going through a mass layoff while you are on disability leave, you may still be fired. However, if an employer fires a worker or takes an adverse employment action against them for no other reason, then the worker can file a lawsuit.
New York Benefits Program
New York created their Temporary Disability Benefits Program in 1949. The program provides paid benefits to employees who become disabled due to injuries or illnesses not related to their job. However, the benefits max out at just $170 a week, which is not much for most New Yorkers. Also, there is no guaranteed job protection, so they may not have a job once they heal. FMLA is the only program that offers protected leave.
Contact a New York Employment Law Attorney
Under New York law, you cannot be terminated from your job if you were lawfully taking time off through the FMLA program. Some employers discriminate against those who are disabled, so if you believe this is the case with you, seek legal help.
The employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can assess your case and see if your employer can be held liable for their actions. Schedule a free consultation by calling (347) 464-8694 or filling out the online form.