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Help! My employer terminated me while I was on family leave

Workers who are taking a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) expect that they will have their job waiting for them when they return to work. This isn't always the way that it happens. Some employers will terminate a worker who is on this type of leave. If you are terminated while on FMLA leave, you should find out if you can file a claim against the employer.

While it is not illegal to fire a worker who is on FMLA leave, it is important that employer ensure that they are firing the worker for a reason that isn't related to the leave. Employers can't fire workers because they take FMLA leave.

If the employer has another reason for firing the employee, that reason must be something that would have resulted in the termination if the employee wasn't on leave. If you opt to file a complaint about the termination while on FMLA leave, it is up to the employer to prove that the termination was lawful.

Poor employee performance, corporate restructuring and a reduction in the workforce are all examples of lawful reasons why an employee might be terminated while on this leave. The employer can't fire an employee for retaliation or for any discriminatory reason.

If you think that you were fired for an illegal reason while you were on leave, make sure that you explore your options for handling the situation. Reviewing the documentation the employer has regarding the termination is a good place to start if you are trying to decide whether the termination was lawful or not.

Source: Human Resource Executive Online, "Terminating an Employee on FMLA Leave," accessed June 16, 2017

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