Receiving long-term disability benefits does not prevent your employer from terminating you. But federal and state laws forbid them from firing disabled employees under certain conditions.
Confused? Let’s break it down bit by bit.
Suppose you are diagnosed with a brain injury that puts you in partial permanent disability. If qualified, you may receive long-term disability benefits. Since you’re only partially disabled, you can still go to work. But your disability prevents you from doing your job correctly. As a result, your employer decided to fire you.
Question: is the termination legal?
It depends. If your case falls under any state or federal laws prohibiting the wrongful termination of disabled workers, then it is illegal. As such, you can file for damages. But the fact that you’re receiving long-term disability benefits does not matter. You cannot use it to claim that you’ve been wrongfully terminated.
LAWS THAT PROHIBIT TERMINATION OF DISABLED EMPLOYEES
Under federal law, your employer can’t fire you if you qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act. Different states also have laws that protect employees from wrongful termination.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA)
The FMLA is enacted to help employees balance their work and personal life. Under this law, certain employees are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
What is a job-protected leave?
This means that you can take leave from work for up to 12 weeks, and your employer cannot terminate you. If your leave exceeds 12 weeks, you are no longer protected by law and can be legally dismissed.
The act applies to employees of:
- public agencies
- elementary and secondary schools (private and public)
- companies with 50 or more employees
You are entitled to an FMLA leave if you have worked for your current employer for at least 1,250 compensable hours over the past 12 months. Compensable hours are determined according to the principles of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
It also provides that you are only eligible for job-protected leave under the following reasons:
- birth and care of your newborn child
- placement of your child for adoption or foster care
- to care for an immediate family member (i.e., spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
- to take medical leave when you are unable to work because of a serious health condition.
If you qualify for FMLA but still get terminated, you can file for reinstatement or claim damages from your employer.
AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)
Under this act, employers with 15 or more workers must provide reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees.
Reasonable accommodations are sometimes referred to as “productivity enhancers.” These are the adjustments or changes to the workplace so disabled workers can successfully perform their tasks to the same extent as people without disabilities. Provided that such adjustments will not cause the company “undue hardship.”
For example, the employer can install ramps or modify the layout of the workplace. They can also provide assistive technologies such as screen readers and videophones. The employer can offer a more flexible schedule or change the employee’s job requirements if necessary.
They legally dismiss you only after your employer has provided reasonable accommodations and you still can’t do your job correctly. The same applies if no reasonable accommodations can cater to your disability.
STATE EMPLOYMENT LAWS
Different states have laws covering medical leaves for employees. Some of them are more generous than the FMLA.
In California, for instance, employees get at least 30 days of paid sick leave within a year. They can also earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.
In Florida, as long as you return to work before your allowed leave ends, you can return to your former position. Or in a different position but with similar pay, benefits, and status.
To know more about your local sick leave laws, contact your state’s Department of Labor.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN EMPLOYEE GOES ON LONG-TERM DISABILITY?
When an employee goes on long-term disability, they cannot work due to an injury, illness, or medical condition that hampers their job performance. The benefits and protections an employee receives during this period depend on the employer’s policies and the terms of their contract.
Long-term disability leave specifics are contingent upon the employer’s policies and the employment agreement. Generally, these benefits aim to replace a portion of the employee’s income while they are incapable of working due to their medical condition. Typically, employees need to provide medical documentation to support their disability claim, and they may be subject to periodic medical reviews to continue receiving benefits. The duration for which an employee can receive disability benefits varies based on the specific policy and the severity of their medical condition.
It’s essential to understand that an employee’s job is not always guaranteed during a long-term disability. Depending on the contract terms, employers reserve the right to terminate employment after a certain period of disability leave or if it becomes evident that the employee cannot return to work.
However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are generally obligated to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Therefore, employees must communicate their medical conditions and work capabilities with their employers.
CAN I COLLECT UNEMPLOYMENT IF TERMINATED WHILE ON DISABILITY?
It is possible for a person who was fired while on disability to collect unemployment benefits in certain situations. However, eligibility for unemployment benefits after being terminated while on disability can vary depending on the specific laws and regulations in place. Individuals in this situation should consult local laws or seek legal advice to understand their rights and options.
It’s important to note that in some cases, quitting or getting fired may render an individual ineligible for unemployment benefits. Exceptions may apply, so reviewing the specific circumstances and consulting relevant sources or legal professionals for accurate information is essential.
WHAT HAPPENS TO LONG TERM DISABILITY WHEN TERMINATED?
It depends on your disability insurance policy. If an insurance company pays your disability benefits, your employment status won’t affect your benefits. But if your employer pays it, then your disability payments may cease.
Although, there are instances when your insurance company can legally terminate your benefits. Most of the time, it’s because you no longer meet the definition of “disabled.” Or sometimes because you refuse to cooperate with the insurance company’s requests for information.
DOES LONG-TERM DISABILITY CONTINUE AFTER TERMINATION?
In some cases, a long-term disability policy may include specific language stating that employees will no longer be eligible for disability payments if the employer terminates them for cause. The presence or absence of this provision in the policy will determine whether a termination for cause affects an employee’s receipt of long-term disability benefits.
It’s essential to be aware that termination also impacts health insurance coverage. Generally, employer-sponsored healthcare benefits end on the last day of the month, when the employee is terminated, unless they choose to continue coverage through COBRA. This can pose challenges for maintaining eligibility for long-term disability benefits, as ongoing proof of disability is necessary to continue receiving those benefits.
It is advisable to continue seeking medical treatment if financially feasible, even if employer-sponsored healthcare benefits are no longer available. Additionally, individuals may qualify for discounted health coverage through healthcare.gov, in addition to the option of COBRA.
HOW LONG CAN AN EMPLOYEE BE ON LTD BEFORE TERMINATION?
The duration that an employee can be on long-term disability (LTD) before termination can vary depending on factors such as employer policies, applicable laws, and the specifics of the employee’s situation.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the United States, employees can take leave from work for up to 12 weeks, and during this time, their employer cannot terminate them. However, termination may be possible if an employee’s leave exceeds 12 weeks.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE WRONGFULLY TERMINATED
Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like Victor Malca if you have been wrongfully terminated. He’s been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Florida for over two decades. Aside from helping you get the compensation benefits you deserve, he can also help you get justice for wrongful termination. Call us now for a free consultation.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.