What to do if I had back surgery and was still out of work recovering, when my company called and said they had eliminated my position after 21 years of service?

They offered me a severance package but said the only way I could get it was to have my doctor sign a release, with no restrictions. However, the doctor will not d this because I am still having problems with my back and it would be dishonest. Plus, if the doctor did this, it would hurt my chances of being able to receive disability. Can the company legally do this?

Asked on August 4, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

They cannot terminate you due to your having had some back problem or condition--that would be illegal job discrimination. But they could terminate you if you could not do the job you were employed to do (even if you have a medical condition, the employer does not need to employ you if you can't actually work); and they may lay you off if your position is eliminated for valid reasons not related to your condition or the surgery, such as due to restructuring their business, due to economic or financial reasons, etc.

Putting the above together:

1) They could eliminate your position, even after 21 years of service, if there was some valid, business  or economic reason for it.

2) Severance is not required for layoffs or terminations, but is voluntary on the employer's part; being voluntary, they can put restrictions or limitations on it, such as it only goes to people who were still working or at least able to work at their positions.

So, in theory, this is legal. However, there may be facts that change that analysis, such as if there is no valid reason for your position to be eliminated; therefore, doing anything, you should consult in person with an employment law attorney, and let him or her review all the facts in detail and advise you as your options, rights, and course of action.


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