YOU ASK:

Can I be fired while on short term disability?

WE ANSWER:

It depends on the level of employee protection your state has, as well as your company's HR policies on short term disability.

There are some states which offer more protection and will help you keep your job even if you are temporarily disabled. There are some employers who offer short term disability leaves and will only hire a temporary worker to assume your responsibilities until such time that you are able to go back to work. Short term disability benefits are usually part of an employee-benefits package that is aimed to entice competent staff and keep them in the company.

In some states, there may be very little by way of protection during one's short term disability. After all, your "agreement" with your employer is that they pay you for the job you do for them. If you are unable to do that job, then, with today's competitive environment, you may find yourself out of a job. There are also some states which require that the company find an alternative job for you within the company, one that you can do even with your disability. However, if the company is unable to find such a position or is unable to create that position for you, you may be legally terminated.

This principle is based on the "Work at Will" Law, which is applicable to some states (also called "At Will" states). This law allows both the employer and employee to terminate their employer-employee relationship under specified circumstances - such as the employee does not want to work there anymore or the employer finds the employee's work below standard.

You may also use your Family and Medical Leave (based on the FMLA act) to formally request for some time off due to your disability. You will notify your employer in writing about this leave and your time off may be counted against your FMLA, which is allowed to give you up to 12 weeks of time off. It would be best to try to return to work within those 12 weeks to ensure that you are not terminated by the employer. If your employer did not inform you that your time off is counted against your FMLA, you can actually get an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave, with the additional assurance that your job (the same position or a similar one) is there waiting for you when you come back.

It is important that you have your medical records with you so that you can submit these documents to your employer to show that you are temporarily unfit for due, but can be reasonably expected to be able to go back to work after a short period of time. The employer is well within his rights to require that you submit these documents before he allows you to go back to work at his company.

In essence, it really depends on your state, as well as on the company you are working for.

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