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


Employees aren’t robots, so employers shouldn’t expect them to be able to work every shift without having any issues. Things like illnesses, pregnancies, adoptions and sick children come up. This is where the Family and Medical Leave Act comes into the picture.

Workers who are covered under the FMLA can take unpaid time off of work. There are certain qualifications that employees must meet to take the time off and there are limits to this leave. You can take the leave all at once, you can use it intermittently or you can use it to cover a reduced work schedule. Additional restrictions apply for these cases.

The unpaid leave only includes a total of 12 weeks in a 12-month period. It can only be taken for time off for the birth of a child, the adoption of a child, sick leave for the employee, time to care for the employee’s immediate family or the placement of a foster child in the home. Interestingly, employees can’t use the FMLA to care for in-laws.

Only certain employees can use the FMLA coverage. You must have worked for your employer for 12 months prior to needing time off. The location where you work must have 50 employees or there must be that many employees total in a 75-mile radius. You must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months.

If you meet the requirements and your situation falls under a covered area, your employer must provide you with the leave as long as you follow established procedures to get the time off. If you are denied this leave, you might opt to take action against the employer for an FMLA violation.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “Wage and Hour Division (WHD): The Family and Medical Leave Act,” accessed May 16, 2017