Is it legal for my employer to fire me while I’m still on medical leave?

I am currently on leave from work from having a surprise laparoscopy. My doctor said to return to the work 06/06. I previously took 06/07 off and had it approved before all of this happened, so I reminded my employer that I still need that day and won’t return until 06/08. She fired me over e-mail instead. Can she do that while I am still on medical leave?

Asked on June 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Were you out pursuant to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). If so, you could not be fired strictly for the reason of your being absent from work. However, if there was another reason for your firing (e.g. you committed theft, you were not competent at your job, etc.), then that would be legally acceptable. If you were not out on FMLA time and you had no protection against termination under the terms of an employment contract or union agreement, then you could have been terminated for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice. This is true regardless of your doctor's  instructions, as such instructions are not legally binding on a business. The fact is that in an "at will" employment relationship, a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination).

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