At some point in their working life, many employees will suffer a long-term illness. Maybe they will have cancer or suffer a heart attack. Whatever the reason, many employees must either leave their jobs for a short amount of time or try to continue working with less than optimal results. This article will discuss your job protections and what you should do if you find yourself struggling with a long-term illness.
You Might Have a Right to Medical Leave
The federal Family Medical Leave Act allows employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a personal illness that prevents them from performing the essential functions of their job. Not every job is covered by the FMLA. To qualify, your company must have 50 employees within 75 miles of each other.
Employees also must have worked at least a year for their employer and worked at least 1,250 hours in the preceding year.
FMLA provides the following job protections:
- Your employer cannot fire you while you are on your 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, if you take more time, then an employer can terminate you.
- Your employer cannot demote you when you return. Instead, your employer must return you to the same position or a substantially similar one.
You Might Be Able to Request an Accommodation
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might also provide protections if you suffer from a long-term illness. The ADA is a federal law that applies to employers with 15 or more employees and prevents employers from firing workers because of a disability.
Under the law, a disability is a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits you. For example, impaired talking, vision, hearing, or walking could qualify. You might also qualify if you have a history of disability, such as cancer in remission. The law requires that employers offer reasonable accommodations that allow you to continue to work.
The ADA is an important law for many people suffering from an illness. Although they can return to work, they often realize that they cannot perform at the same high level that they once used to. Sometimes, an employee simply needs an accommodation to help them continue to do the essential functions of the job. For example, someone who works at a store might need a chair to sit in while they work at a register.
The law only requires that employers make “reasonable” accommodations, which is determined by looking at the cost to your employer and how disruptive the accommodation would be.
Speak with an Experienced New Jersey Employment Lawyer
If you believe your employer has violated your FMLA or ADA rights, then you might be able to bring a lawsuit or file a discrimination charge. New York residents also might have additional protections under state law.
At the Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP, we help employees vindicate their rights in the workplace. For more information about how you can respond to discrimination, contact us today. We are one of the premier employment law firms in New York and New Jersey.