Can a company lay off an employee on medical leave due to a workforce reduction?

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Can a company lay off an employee on medical leave due to a workforce reduction?

We are an office of 4 people and 1 of the 4 is a replacement of a person that has been on medical leave for 23 weeks. We are too small to accommodate bringing this person back in the previous role they worked in and have no need for additional staff at this time.

Asked on September 24, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Legally, medical leave does not insulate an employee from termination for reasons wholly separate from his/her medical condition and leave, such as a reduction in force (RIF). Practically, the answer depends on whether the facts (e.g. timeline) supports that the RIF has nothing to do with the medical leave or reduction. 
BUT you are not not actually describing laying them off due to a RIF: you are not, for example, going from 4 employees to 3 or 2. You are describing staying static in headcount and laying off the person on medical leave rather than their replacement. That you cannot do: if you have the same number of positions, you have to bring the person who was on leave back and let go the person you brought in to cover for them.


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