In the three-week period following the realization that COVID-19 would have a major impact on American life, more than 16 million people filed for unemployment benefits, far exceeding any short-term job loss that this country has ever experienced. On top of this, certain workers are not eligible for unemployment for one reason or another, so the true number of people out of a job is even greater.
The wave of dismissals has touched every industry, with sectors that rely on assembling groups of people in a small space particularly hard hit. Still, there might be instances where fired workers suspect that a business is using this country’s medical and financial crisis as an excuse to terminate someone for a different, improper reason. If you’ve been terminated while on temporary disability leave, you might wonder about the true motivation for your firing and the legal standards that apply, such as:
- Business necessity — Employers that can show a worker’s termination resulted from a legitimate business necessity or a job performance issue can release someone who’s on disability. The overwhelming economic fallout from the coronavirus likely makes it easy for companies to claim that laying off personnel is consistent with business needs rather than retaliation against someone temporarily unable to work. Still, some protections do exist.
- FMLA and similar state provisions — Covering businesses that employ at least 50 people, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act gives workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a medical condition, spend time with a newly born infant or assist a loved one facing a serious health challenge. In some states, employees in smaller companies have similar protection. Someone who is absent from the workplace due to FMLA is entitled to job protection when they return, but could be let go due to a general layoff or the elimination of their department. However, if only certain people are dismissed in the layoff, someone cannot be selected because they’re taking FMLA time.
- ADA protections— Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses with 15 or more employees must make reasonable accommodations for workers who have a disability but can perform their job duties. A company that terminates someone’s employment because they don’t want to take the necessary steps is in violation of the law.
Whether you’re concerned about being fired while out of work due to a temporary disability or don’t believe you’re getting the benefits you deserve, obtaining personalized advice from a disability lawyer will give you the information you need to make a smart choice on how to proceed.
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Mastagni Holstedt, APC advises clients on a wide range of disability benefit issues. Please contact the firm online to make an appointment for a consultation.