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Can You Be Terminated While on Medical Leave?

Guha Law Aug. 9, 2021

As a general rule, California employers cannot retaliate against you for taking advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This piece of legislation gives you up to 12 weeks of unpaid time away from your employer to care for yourself or a relative. Your employer is generally required to hold your position while you are gone. Alternatively, it can provide you with a similar position upon your return.

Who Is Covered by FMLA Rules?

This act applies to companies that have at least 50 employees, and it applies to employees who have been with their current employers for at least 12 months. Ideally, you’ll provide your employer with at least 30 days notice that you are planning to take a leave of absence. A failure to provide timely notice may nullify your FMLA rights.

You Can Be Terminated While on Leave

If you were going to be terminated for poor job performance prior to going on leave, your employer can do so while you’re away. It may also be able to do so before you make use of your FMLA rights. Furthermore, you could be relieved of your duties while away from your employer if you engage in fraudulent behavior while off the job.

Employees who believe that they are wrongfully terminated may have the ability to pursue legal action against their employers. If their claims are successful, they may be entitled to punitive damages or reinstatement to their current positions. Companies that engage in wrongful termination may also be required to review and alter their workplace policies to ensure that they comply with relevant state and federal laws.