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Can I Be Fired While on Leave For Disability?

Disability Wiki.

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If you suffer an injury outside the workplace that prevents you from performing the duties of your job, you are likely concerned about keeping your job while you heal from your injury.  If you are pregnant or have just given birth, you are likely to have similar concerns.

The Disability Benefits Law provides cash benefits to replace partial wages lost due to illness or injury not arising out of or in the course of employment.   In order to be eligible for disability benefits, you must be within a certain “class” or category of employee, such as an employee of a “covered” employer who has worked for at least four weeks.  The employee must be under the care of a physician or other health care practitioner to qualify for benefits.  Certain classes of employees are ineligible.  Our knowledgeable New York disability lawyers can aid you in determining whether you are eligible for benefits.

FILING A DISABILITY CLAIM

You must file a written claim with your disability benefits carrier using the form provided by the Disability Office, generally form DB-450, within 30 days of your disability.  You, the claimant, must complete part of the form, and your treating physician completes another portion.   If your claim is denied, you may appeal the decision.  Your New York disability attorney may represent you in the appeals process.

CAN MY EMPLOYER TERMINATE ME WHILE I’M ON DISABILITY?

New York is generally considered an "employment at will" state, which means that an employer can legally fire an employee without cause.  However, under certain circumstances, the discharge of an employee is against the law, and the discharged employee may bring suit against his/her employer for monetary damages and/or reinstatement of employment.

The Workers' Compensation Law prohibits an employer from discharging a worker because he has filed a Disability Benefits claim.  This law, like most, contains exceptions, such as when the employee has failed to comply with the law or company policy when taking leave.  That, among other exceptions, may constitute grounds for a lawful termination even while the employee is on disability.  We recommend consulting a New York disability lawyer to counsel you in this complex area of law.

WHAT IF MY EMPLOYER DOES TERMINATE ME?

If your employer terminated your employment while you were on disability, you may have a claim against your employer for wrongful termination.  To prevail in a wrongful termination suit, the employee/plaintiff must be a member of a group of persons protected by the law, called a “protected class.”  Disabled and pregnant persons, among others, are within a protected class.  Depending on the protected class you fall into, federal and state laws may provide you with legal recourse.  Whether your employer violated federal and/or state laws determines the compensation to which you are entitled.  Some violations will trigger statutory penalties, others entitle the terminated employee to lost wages and other monetary damages, and in some instances, the employee may receive punitive damages.

 

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