If you are on long-term disability leave, you likely have a lot on your plate. Dealing with a disability can be all-consuming. On top of this, you may be concerned about whether or not you can and will be fired while you are recovering from your disability, whether a physical injury, a physical illness, or a mental illness. The laws regarding whether or not you can be fired while on long term disability are complex. Here, we will try to unravel them to make them easier to understand what they mean for you while on long term disability.
Can an Employee Be Terminated on Long Term Disability?
The basic answer to this question is that, yes, it is possible for an employee on long term disability to be terminated. There are, however, several laws in place to help prevent this from occurring when certain conditions are applicable. To be clear, long term disability policies do not offer any job protection. That is not what they are there for. Federal and state laws are in place to protect people on long term disability from being terminated, but they are not always applicable.
For instance, there is job protection available to those on long term disability should the person be taking leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or comparable state law. Under FMLA, you are able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in order to handle a physical or mental medical problem you or a family member are experiencing. FMLA only applies, however, to companies with a minimum of 50 employees. Should you request and be granted FMLA leave, you cannot be legally terminated while you are on FMLA leave. Upon return from FMLA leave, your employer is required to give your job position, or a comparable one, back to you should you still be able to perform the necessary job related duties. In addition to FMLA leave, the majority of states have their own laws about unpaid medical leave that are similar to the protections afforded by FMLA.
There is also job protection available under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even after the 12 weeks provided by FMLA has lapsed, the ADA can make it difficult for you to be legally terminated while on long term disability leave. Prior to termination, the ADA requires that your employer attempt to accommodate you in a way that makes your job suitable to you considering the limitations imposed upon you by your disability. Should your employer be unable to provide reasonable accommodations allowing you to continue performing the essential duties of your job, then your employer can fire you.
Despite these protections, you need to be aware that anyone can be terminated from a job if it is due to business necessity or if it is due to performance issues that are unrelated to his or her disability. Additionally, you need to be aware that there are some situations where you may be legally terminated despite being on disability leave. This is possible if your employer complies with the rules established under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In sum, an employer cannot legally fire a person for the sole reason that he or she is receiving long term disability benefits or due to the fact that he or she has a disability, but most employees are “at-will” and this means that an employer has the ability to terminate him or her for a wide range of other reasons.
Disability laws go to the heart of so many people’s everyday lives. They apply to things like your job and your ability to continue working. Should you have any questions about disability benefits or the protections you may have available to you while on disability, please reach out to Disability Advocates Group. We are here to answer your questions. Contact us today.