Can You Be Legally Terminated While on Long-term Disability?

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 at a 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 properly. As a result, your employer decided to fire you.

Question: is the termination legal?

It depends. If your case falls under any of the state or federal laws that prohibit 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 their own 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

If you have worked for your current employer for at least 1,250 compensable hours over the past 12 months, you are entitled to an FMLA leave. 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 got terminated, you can file for reinstatement or claim damages from your employer.

A person conversing with someone in a wheelchair.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Under this act, employers with 15 or more workers have to 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. If necessary, the employer can also offer a more flexible schedule or change the employee’s job requirements.

Only after your employer has provided reasonable accommodations and you still can’t do your job properly, can they legally dismiss you. The same also applies if no reasonable accommodations exist that can cater to your disability.

State Employment Laws

Different states have their own 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 has ended, you can go back 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 to Long Term Disability When Terminated?

It depends on your disability insurance policy. If your disability benefits are paid by an insurance company, then your employment status won’t affect your benefits. But if it’s paid by your employer, 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.

What To Do If You Are Wrongfully Terminated

If you have been wrongfully terminated, contact an experienced workers compensation attorney like Victor Malca. He’s been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Florida for more than two decades. Aside from helping you get the compensation benefits you deserve, he can help you get justice for wrongful termination too. 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.