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Were You Fired For Taking Medical Leave?

You’re protected by law when taking medical leave. We can help.

When health and work collide, your health should come first. That’s why laws exist to protect employees who need to take reasonable amounts of medical leave from their jobs. Your employer must follow the law, and you should be able to exercise your rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation.

Unfortunately, that’s not always how it plays out. If you were fired, demoted, or suffered other adverse employment actions because you took medical leave, you have legal recourse. The Ohio employment law attorneys at Gibson Law, LLC can help.

Do you qualify for medical leave under the FMLA?

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to all employers that employ 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the location where you work. You are eligible for FMLA leave if:

  • You have worked for an employer covered by FMLA for at least a year,
  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours for your employer in the previous year (for reference, a full year at 40 hours a week is 2,080 hours), and
  • You have worked for your employer for 12 months total (need to be consecutive).

If you qualify, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to get care for a serious health condition, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or bond with a new child (whether born or adopted). This leave need not be taken all at once; you are allowed to take intermittent leave, and to keep taking it every 12 months as long as you remain eligible.

Do you qualify for military family leave in Ohio?

Ohio law provides medical leave for parents, spouses, and legal guardians of members of the armed services who are called to active duty or injured, wounded, or hospitalized on active service. The law entitles the employee to 10 days or 80 hours of unpaid leave, whichever is less. As with the FMLA, this Ohio law only applies to employers with at least 50 employees.

Do you qualify for medical leave under the ADA and Ohio law?

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Ohio law can entitle employees to job-protected medical leave when the FMLA does not apply. These laws can require employers to make reasonable accommodations that do not impose an undue hardship on the employer for employees with qualifying disabilities. Depending on the nature of your disability, some amount of unpaid leave – for instance, intermittent leave to go to a standing medical appointment or extended periods of leave for recovery – may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

Unlike the FMLA, the ADA and Ohio law do not set a specific amount of leave employers must provide. Rather, the employer is required to provide unpaid leave if it is a necessary, reasonable accommodation for the employee’s disability that does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. The ADA and Ohio law are also different from the FMLA in that they can provide job-protected medical leave to employees during their first 12 months of employment under certain circumstances.

When courts assess whether leave is a required accommodation under the ADA, they look at your job duties, the amount of time off, how your employer has treated other time off requests in the past, and other relevant factors.

Do you qualify for leave under your employer’s policy?

Many employers have their own paid and unpaid leave policies in addition to the legal requirements. Your employer is free to set its own policies and to modify them as it sees fit, so long as those policies comply with the law, but it must enforce its own policies in a non-discriminatory manner. For instance, if your employer is covered by the ADA and you request disability-related leave under your employer’s policy, they could run afoul of the ADA if they refuse to approve your leave or retaliate against you for taking leave.

Your employer cannot retaliate if you take medical leave

If you take job-protected medical leave that is protected by law, your employer is not allowed to take any adverse employment actions to punish you for taking leave. If your employer fired you for taking leave, or demoted you, cut your pay, gave you less desirable assignments or shifts, passed you over for a promotion or raise, or in any other way treated you poorly because you took leave, you have rights under the law.

Some types of adverse action are blatant, but in many cases, they are subtle. If, when you take medical leave, your employer takes you off more prestigious accounts or rearranges your responsibilities such that you are no longer on track for promotions and advancement within the company, that’s retaliation. If they try to put you in a more physically uncomfortable position out of spite for your medical condition – for instance, making you stay on your feet or bend and lift when you previously were not required to do so – that’s retaliation, too.

You have recourse under federal law – but you have to fight for it

The law takes a dim view of employers who try to use their position of power over employees to dissuade them from exercising their right to medical leave. Depending on the laws violated, you may be able to take legal action against your employer to pursue:

  • Reinstatement – that is, getting your job back, if feasible.
  • Wages (back pay), benefits, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Front pay to cover your expenses while you look for a new job.
  • Compensatory damages for losses such as emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages, if your employer’s conduct was particularly egregious.
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs.

The key is to talk to a lawyer right away at the first sign of an adverse action. Our conversation is fully confidential and speaking with us does not mean you’re going to sue your employer – it just means you’re prepared to exercise your rights. Sometimes, employers don’t even realize what they’re doing is against the law, and we’re able to help you negotiate a solution. If they won’t follow the law, we are prepared to take legal action on your behalf.

If you suspect you’re being retaliated against for taking medical leave, you need to do two things: document everything and contact us right away. We would be happy to explain your legal options. You have rights, and an experienced Ohio employment law attorney can protect them. Schedule your free consultation today.

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