I am on medical leave, can my boss legally cut off all insurance benefits and fire me?

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I am on medical leave, can my boss legally cut off all insurance benefits and fire me?

As I stated above, I am on medical leave. I had colon cancer nearly 3 years ago, went through chemo and surgery, and was cancer free until 2 months ago when the doctors found a mass in my liver. I had to go on medical leave the first time I had cancer and my boss held my job for me, as well as benefits, but this time he called and told me that he “will not hold my job” and my insurance “will be terminated after Christmas.” Do I have any legal rights? Is there anything at all that I can do? Without insurance, I cannot afford my cancer treatments.

Asked on November 28, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You do not indicate  what state you are writing from; that could be critical, since some states have laws supplementing the federal law and common law principals described below. You may wish to repost your question with state-specific detail.

Under the common law, an employer is NOT obligated to provide medical leave. While an employer is certainly free to do so, they were also free to fire employees who did not show up to work for medical reasons (assuming the employee did not  validly use vacation, sick, etc. days he or she had acrued).

There is a federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which may help you. Under FMLA, IF you are working for a covered employer--that is, one which has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius--and you worked enough to qualify (at least one year), you would have the right to take up to 3 months per year of unpaid leave and have a job held for you.

However, if your employer has less than 50 employees, they are not subject to FMLA and do not have to provide medical leave. Or if you have taken more than 3 months leave in the last year, they do not need to provide more  leave. In these circumstances, unless your state happens to have a more generous leave  law, it would seem that your empoyer could terminate you and therefore terminate  your benefits.


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