Is it legal for a company to fire an employee who is unable to return to work after the twelve week FMLA?

UPDATED: May 18, 2009

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Is it legal for a company to fire an employee who is unable to return to work after the twelve week FMLA?

The employee is fighting colon cancer. He had surgery and complications following surgery. He is still under doctor care and undergoing chemotherapy treatments. He was made to use all his company sick leave and vacation time available, them the twelve weeks FMLA followed, with out pay, of course. He just received an e-mail of his being released from employeement (fired) and he would have to pay the insurance on his own. Is this a legal proceedure?? It sure seems unfair to someone battling cancer. Thank you very much.

Asked on May 18, 2009 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

I'm very sorry to hear about this case, but it sounds as if the employer lived up to its obligations under the law.  To be certain, you should have the employee talk to an attorney in your area, and one place to find a labor and employment lawyer is our website,

Employment in Texas, as in most states, is "at will," which means there doesn't have to be a reason for firing, with very limited exceptions.  If all his sick leave, vacation and FMLA time has been used up, and he still can't go back to work, it may be very difficult to find any reason to fight this.

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