Prospective clients frequently call our office seeking to pursue legal action because they were terminated while on disability leave. While calling us is certainly the correct first-step in this situation, not all employers violate the law when they terminate an employee who is out on disability leave and the simple fact of receipt of short term disability benefits does not prohibit termination. For example, if an employer is doing a reorganization and your position is legitimately eliminated, you are not protected simply because you are out on disability leave.
The first question to ask in determining whether your employer can legally terminate you while you are on disability leave is whether your leave is protected. In other words, are you eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or New Jersey’s Family Leave Act? If so, and if you are terminated during that period of protected leave, then you likely have a claim under those statutes and should call our office as soon as possible.
If you are not eligible for protected leave or you remain disabled and in need of medical leave after your period of protected leave expires, then further analysis is required. Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers still have an obligation to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities as long as the accommodation is not an undue hardship on the employer. Because medical leave can be a reasonable accommodation, termination during medical leave may constitute illegal disability discrimination. However, the length of medical leave before it goes from a reasonable accommodation to an undue hardship on the employer is not set in stone. Many factors must be considered in determining whether termination during medical leave would be in violation of anti-discrimination laws. For example, the length of the leave, length of leave given to other employees, the size of the employer, your job responsibilities, and the circumstances surrounding the requests for leave and the termination, among other factors, are relevant to whether the length of the requested medical leave was reasonable and whether the termination was legal.
So, if you were terminated while on disability leave or believe your employer is failing to reasonably accommodate your disability, please contact us here or give us a call at (973) 695 – 7777 to discuss the specific facts of your case.