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Is it Legal to be Fired While on Medical Leave?

Medical leave is a leave of absence that an employee takes to deal with the effects of a health condition. In California, a worker may be legally entitled to guaranteed medical leave. This raises an important question of if your employer can fire you while you are out on medical leave. Technically speaking, the answer is yes. This is only true, though, if the reason for termination is wholly unrelated to the medical leave. In this article, our Oakland employment lawyers explain the most important things workers need to know about state and federal medical leave laws.

California: State and Federal Laws Provide Eligible Workers Job-Protected Medical Leave

Medical leave is complicated. An employee may be entitled to take leave offered through an employer’s voluntary benefits program, under federal law, under state law, or under some combination of the bunch. Medical leave may either be paid or unpaid. Here are the key things you should understand about the federal and state medical leave laws::

  • Federal Law: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees certain employees job-protected medical leave to deal with a qualifying health condition. FMLA leave is unpaid and can last for a maximum duration of 12 weeks.
  • State Law: California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA) is essentially a state version of the federal FMLA. Once again, medical leave granted under the CFRA is job-protected. An employer cannot fire you simply because you CFRA leave.

A Workers Can Still Be Terminated — But Only for a Wholly Unrelated Reason

Under the FMLA, CFRA, and other regulations, an employee may be eligible for job-protected medical leave to deal with a serious health condition. In effect, this means that your employer cannot fire you because you exercised your right to take a medical leave of absence. However, this does not mean that you cannot be fired under any circumstances.

Employers can still take an adverse personnel action, including termination, against employees who are on medical leave or family leave. However, they can only do so if they have valid grounds to fire that work that is wholly unrelated to the fact that they took or are taking medical leave.

Employers May Use Pretextual Reasoning to Punish Workers on Medical Leave

Unfortunately, some employers in the Bay Area offer pretextual (false) reasons for terminating workers who are on medical leave. This is illegal. If you were fired and the fact that you took medical leave influenced your employer’s decision, you should consult with an experienced California wrongful termination lawyer right away. Your rights may have been violated.

Get Help From a Bay Area Employment Lawyer Today

At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our California employment attorneys are skilled, justice-focused advocates for our clients. If you or your loved one was terminated while on medical leave, we are here to help. Give us a call now or use our online contact form to set up a free, confidential initial consultation. We provide employment law services throughout the Bay Area, including in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Alameda, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale.

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