Employees, Disability, and Medical Leave

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Here’s a note from a reader who is on medical leave.

These situations are never straightforward. I don’t miss HR.

Hi, Laurie. How’s this for junk … I work for a large company. In May, I went on medical leave with a ruptured Achilles. As of June 1, I exhaust my TDI & am now on unpaid medical leave thru at least Aug 15, but it may extend.

In June, the company announces they are closing my unit on Sept 3. The six current jobs in my unit are to become five jobs in another department. Like musical chairs. We are all told to reapply. I get an interview and I go in with a doctor’s note. The jobs as described do not match what is online in the description. I don’t get hired.

My boss packs my desk, throws it downstairs for me to pick up. I tell the HR person that I’m not quitting. I’m told they expect me back Aug 15 and to keep applying for jobs in the company. I’m not qualified for anything that’s open.

I get the sense that my company wants me to quit. They said that should I chose to separate employment prior to Sept 3, they will pay me my full wages — but I’m on leave w/o pay. Quitting kills my chances of getting unemployment insurance. I think they are trying to avoid laying me off, especially because I have ADA certification & am on medical leave. I think that opens door for lawsuit… And yeah, I do need my health insurance, especially now.

Have you ever dealt with a situation this messed up before?? Any ideas??

Schwoo. This is messed up. I hate to say it, but it sounds like you are being sent a message. Your boss packs up your stuff and throws it out the door?

It’s over.

This is the dumbest situation in the world because your company could have handled this differently. You’re out on leave — you should be focused on getting well, not focused on interviewing for new positions.

Not that you’re a shitty employee, but if you were, there’s nothing worse than HR handling a situation like this because it creates animosity and a disincentive for you to get back to work. Issues related to performance get muddled up in the mishandling of the employee separation.

Since you’re not getting paid, I would use this time off and find another job. It might take awhile. Return to work on your assigned date and let them lay you off. You’ll qualify for your severance benefits, unemployment insurance, and COBRA. That’s not much of a buffer, but it’s better than nothing.

I wonder what other HR professionals have to say to this employee? Any experience with messy employee separations during medical leaves? In the past, I have eliminated the roles of people who were on short-term disability, long-term disability, and maternity leave. I hated to do it, and I preferred to leave it alone and wait until the employee returned from leave.

Thoughts, HR peeps?

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