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Employment Law/Terminated while on two week medical leave


I worked for any attorney for 14 1/2 years as a legal secretary, preparing closing documents.  I was diagnosed with a heart issue, then medication causing more heart issues.  Dr. put me on a two week medical leave of absence. I was experiencing skipping heart beats, shortness of breath, racing heart (heart beats per minute ranging from 91 to 131 beats per minute) high blood pressure. The attorney called me twice while on two week medical leave of absence.  First time he called, I did not recognize the phone no., the minutes I heard his voice, my body tensed up, I could feel my heart racing, my blood pressure and adrenaline shot up.  Second time he called I had just been fitted with a 15 day Event Heart Monitor (during this 2nd call is when my heart beats per minute went up to almost 200) I felt he was harassing me regarding date I would return to work. I told him I did not know as I was to see one doctor at the end of the 2 week period and I had to wear the heart monitor for 15 days then wait for results. I was so stressed during this 2nd phone call, I felt he would not stop calling, I finally said if he needed to move on go ahead.  He said I will think about it.  He terminated me in less than 24 hours.  My replacement started the next day.  Can you be terminated when under a stressful situation like this.

Cathy - An employer does not need any reason to terminate an employee unless the employee has a written  employment agreement spelling out the circumstances under which termination may occur.  I am assuming that the office is small and therefore not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which could have protected your job during your illness.  Does the office have fifty or more employees? If not, you are not covered by this law.  However, you should attempt to get unemployment benefits, since you did not actually quit, the employer decided to let you go because of the uncertainty of your return date.  You have to be able to work for UC benefits, so don't apply until your doctor releases you to return to work.  

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Margaret M. deMarteleire


I can answer most questions about employment law, federal or state. I am an attorney, not an HR professional, so questions about HR careers, coursework, prospects, etc. are not within my scope.


Attorney for 20 years, currently working exclusively with employment law - FLSA, FMLA, federal contracts, pay, etc.

Temple University School of Liberal Arts, BA, Rhetoric & Communication, 1982 Temple University School of Law, JD, 1990 Certificate in HR, Cornell University ILR School, 2006

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