Some workers in New Jersey have short- and long-term disability insurance. These types of coverage can provide a financial safety net if you are unable to work for a short time or a longer period because of a disabling condition. While this type of coverage can help you in the event of a medical condition or injury, long- and short-term disability insurance policies do not offer job protection. This means that your employer may be able to fire you when you are on leave from work and receiving disability benefits. However, there are some situations in which you would have legal grounds to sue your employer for wrongful termination. Here is what Swartz Swidler thinks you should know about laws that might protect your job when you are receiving disability benefits.
The Family Medical Leave Act
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act gives eligible employees the ability to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave off from their jobs to care for their own serious medical issues or to care for the conditions of their immediate family members. The FMLA applies to companies that have 50 or more workers that are located within a 75-mile radius of each other. Employees are eligible if they have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave is taken.
Employees are allowed to receive short- or long-term disability benefits while they are on unpaid FMLA leave. The FMLA also contains job protections. Your employer is not allowed to fire you while you are on FMLA leave as long as your leave does not exceed 12 weeks in a year. When you return to work, your employer must return you to your former job or to one that is similar. If you are unable to return after 12 weeks have passed, your employer can fire you.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits terminating employees based on disabilities who meet the definition of disability under the law. A disability under the ADA is a mental or physical impairment that places substantial limitations on a major activity of life. The ADA covers employers that have 15 or more employees. These employers have to offer reasonable accommodations to you unless doing so would cause them undue hardship. The employees must tell their employers about their disabilities so accommodations can be offered. If reasonable accommodations cannot be made, the employer can fire you.
Health insurance coverage if you are fired
If you are unable to return to your job within 12 weeks or are unable to perform the essential tasks of your job with reasonable accommodations and are fired, you may be concerned about your health insurance coverage. Under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or COBRA, employers that choose to offer their employees health insurance coverage must give terminated workers the option to continue their health insurance for a specific time. To continue your coverage, you will have to pay 100% of your premiums, and your employer can add 2% to cover administrative costs. COBRA only covers employers that have 20 or more workers and that offer medical insurance to their employees.
What to do if you have been fired
If you have been terminated from your job while you were on disability leave, it is possible that your termination may have been wrongful under the FMLA or the ADA. If your employer fired you when you were on FMLA leave, and you did not stay away from your job for longer than 12 weeks, you may have grounds to file a claim against your employer. Similarly, if you were ready to return to work and needed reasonable accommodations, your employer might be liable for terminating you if it failed to offer reasonable accommodations unless doing so would have created an undue hardship.
Employers sometimes argue that they fired their employees for other reasons such as performance problems and not because of their disabilities or because they took FMLA leave. An experienced employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler may understand the types of evidence that you might need to counter these types of arguments. Contact us today by filling out our online contact form so you can learn more about your case and whether you might have grounds to sue.