Is it actually legal for an employer to let someone go after 12 weeks of medical leave?

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Is it actually legal for an employer to let someone go after 12 weeks of medical leave?

My father had been at his job for over 10 years and hurt his back and had to have 2surgeries. His employer (a large retail chain) approved more than 12 weeks off and he had been paying for short term and long term disability insurance all those years. After 12 weeks, he received an overnight letter from the head office stating that his position was not going to be held for him. Now, at 63 with a ruined back (the surgery didn’t work), he is out of work and is being told that it is legal in NC for an employer to let someone go after 12 weeks. This doesn’t seem to jive with FMLA. Is it legal?

Asked on July 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) allows (if you and your employer qualify for it) to have the employee take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for illness, maternity, paternity or other medical issue. An employer is required to hold your job for those 12 weeks. Unfortunately, most employers are not required to hold your job after those 12 weeks. Clearly there are exceptions; the employer cannot discriminate. For you and your spouse, you need to find out from the North Carolina Department of Labor whether or not long term and/or short disability continued after the 12 weeks impact whether or not your spouse's employer can fire him from employment.


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