Bank Worker Fired After Taking Sick Leave

fired employeeThis case involves a man who worked as a bank employee. The man had been working at his job for 25 years, and was one of the longest–serving employees due to the company’s low employee retention rate. The man became sick and started suffering from depression, visual disturbances, inability to concentrate or read, and faintness. The man was later diagnosed by a doctor as suffering from major depression, syncope and collapse, neurasthenia, and anxiety. The man took a leave from his job under the Family Medical Leave Act, and after he had been gone for five months, his employer wrote him a letter asking if he intended to return to work and asking him whether he intended to abandon his job. The man sent a letter back to his employer stating that he had no intention of abandoning his job and that he was unable to work and that the date that he would be able to return to work was unknown. After the employer received this letter, they fired the man, alleging that his sick leave had surpassed the allowed time frame under the Californian vacation policy. The man was fired even though he had sought and obtained long-term disability benefits under an insurance network policy provided by his employer. The man claimed that his firing was discriminatory based on his disability and that this violated the city’s Human Rights Law.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. If an employer fires an employee after the employee takes a disability leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, is this discrimination?

Expert Witness Response

I have over 25 years industry experience in human resources operations and studying employment law. I have testified at trial and in depositions as an expert witness in state and federal courts. Under the human rights laws of most cities, an employer must usually make reasonable accommodations to allow a disabled employee to satisfy the essential functions of their job. Usually, city human rights laws put the burden on the employer to show that an employee could not perform the essential functions of their job with an accommodation. This means that an employer who has fired a disabled employee must be able to prove that even if they offered reasonable accommodations to the employee, the employee still could not perform their job duties. Also, most city human rights laws require an employer to show that providing a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee would have presented a substantial hardship to the employer. In this case, the employer probably committed discrimination in firing the employee. Since the employer had knowledge of the employee’s disability, the employer was required to make reasonable accommodations to allow the man to do his job. The employee’s letter to the employer was a request for reasonable accommodation (i.e. a leave of absence) and the employer was required by the city’s human rights law to provide this. Since the man’s letter to his employer stated that he intended to return to work someday, the employer was required to grant the man a temporary leave of absence in this case.


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