Can I take legal action for being terminated after being out on a medical leave of absence?

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Can I take legal action for being terminated after being out on a medical leave of absence?

I was employed at a hospital for 1 1/2 years. I was in a motor vehicle accident which caused me to have to take a medical leave from work which was approved by the hospital. When I was released to return to work by my physicians, my position at the hospital was filled and I was told I had 30 days to reapply for any position in the hospital like anyone else off the street, which I did. I recently found out a month ago I was terminated and they are using my attendance record as a reason not to rehire me.

Asked on May 9, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If your employer were covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (or a similar state law) and you were eligible for leave under that act, you properly complied with all leave requirements, and you took no more leave than you were allowed under the law (i.e. 12 weeks), then the employer had to hold your job for you and reinstate you after your leave.

Howver, if 1) your employer were not covered by FMLA or a similar law, 2) you were not eligible for it, or 3) you took more leave than allowed under the law, then your employer did not need to hold your position for you and/or could use your absence from work as grounds to terminate you.

There are three exceptios to the above, under which they'd likely still need to re-employ when the leave was up:

1) You had an employment contract or union agreement providing with the amount of leave yo took.

2) You used vacation, sick, personal, or other PTO which you had earned as part of your compensation either for the whole leave, or for any part not otherwise covered (e.g. for any part exceeding FMLA leave).

3) The employer agreed or promise to let you take leave this time, with such agreement or promise made prior to you gong out on leave.

From what you write, 3) above may be the case; if you only went out on leave because your employer had promised or agreed to let you return, you may--depending on the specific circumstances--be able to enforce that agreement or promise. If you think this may be the case--or if you think your employer was obligated to reinstate you under any of the other scenarios above--you should meet with an employment law attorney to discuss your case in detail. Good luck.


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