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CAN I BE FIRED FOR MISSING WORK AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?

An office desk with a laptop and a lot of books on itAfter a motor vehicle accident, those injured are often first concerned about how they will pay their medical bills and make ends meet if they are unable to return to work right away. These immediate concerns are usually addressed with the payment of no-fault benefits. However, many people start to worry about losing their job when they are out of work for an extended period of time.

Unless you have an employment contract that addresses the terms of your employment and when you can be terminated, you may be vulnerable to the discretion of your employer. Most employees do not have an employment contract and are considered to be “at will” employees.  Being “at will” means they serve at the “will” of the employer and can be terminated at any time and for almost any reason so long as the termination does not violate a law or an agreement, such as a collective bargaining agreement.

There are some things you can do to help keep your job.  First, communicate with your employer. If you have been hurt in a car accident, let your employer know about your injury. Be kind and cooperative.  Let you employer know what your doctor says you can and cannot do.  Be straightforward with your employer about how long it may take to heal.  Doing so can reduce misunderstandings between you and your employer and puts your employer in the best position to accommodate your absence.  Be prepared to provide a note from your doctor.  Your employer may be willing to hold your position or offer you a position more suited to your limitations while your injuries heal.  If your employer is unable to hold your position, try not to respond with anger or hurt feelings.  Responding in a positive manner, even at such a difficult time, may help you to secure a job after your injuries heal or a positive recommendation.

Second, consider whether you may be able to keep your job by using benefits such as unused sick leave and vacation time.  Again, make sure you communicate with your employer so that there are no misunderstandings.

Third, you may be able to use Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to keep your job.  FMLA benefits are available to those who:

  1. Work for a “covered employer” (explained below);
  2. Have worked for the covered employer for at least 12 months;
  3. Have at least 1,250 hours of service for the covered employer during the 12 month period immediately before the leave; and
  4. Work at a location where the covered employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

A “covered employer” is a (1) private sector employer with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, (2) public agency, regardless of the number of employees it has, or (3) public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it has.

Although most people think of FMLA benefits in the context of a birth, eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave when a serious health condition makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of the job. You may also be entitled to leave to care for a sick or injured family member.

If you have questions about your rights after an accident, the lawyers at Lacy Katzen LLP can help.  Please call us for a free consultation.

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