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Can a worker on FMLA leave be fired?

On Behalf of | Dec 10, 2020 | Employment Law

The Family and Medical Leave Act can help qualifying employees take up to 12 weeks off of work without fear of losing their job due to taking that leave. However, does that mean that an employer cannot fire a worker during that time? There are instances in which a Michigan employer could terminate a worker who is on FMLA leave, but the reason cannot directly relate to properly taking that leave.

Though applying for and obtaining leave under this act may not present a reason to dismiss a worker, it may not offer full protection from termination if an employer has other reasons for ending a worker’s employment. In some cases, an employer may be able to fire a worker who is on leave for the following reasons:

  • The employee had violated workplace attendance policies before taking leave, such as being repeatedly tardy or absent.
  • The employee disregarded legitimate orders from superiors.
  • The decision to dismiss the employee had been made before he or she had taken leave.
  • The employee showed performance issues before taking leave.

Of course, it is not unusual for employers to claim one of the aforementioned reasons or others as their cause to terminate a worker on leave, but those claims may not be legitimate. As a result, if a worker is fired while on approved leave, it is important to fully understand the employer’s reason and whether evidence for the reason exists. In some cases, termination of a worker on leave could be retaliation.

Losing one’s job at any time can cause difficulties, but if Michigan workers believe that they were terminated for taking leave under the FMLA, they may have reason to fight back. In some cases, employers could violate the terms of this leave act and illegally fire a worker, even if they think they have a valid reason. Because understanding the details of this type of scenario is important, affected workers may wish to obtain an assessment of their ordeal from legal professionals.