One beautifully sunny February day, Jason decided to play football with some friends. Hit after hit, the frozen ground reminded Jason of his age. After returning home bruised and sore, Jason took it easy for the rest of the weekend, however; Monday came way too soon, and Jason found himself unable to do his work tasks. Every box he tried to pick up shot an electrifying pain through his side. Thinking that he was too old to play football, Jason struggled through Monday and Tuesday, before finally going to the doctor on Wednesday. Jason had three broken ribs and whiplash.
Jason had a note from the doctor, restricting him to light duty and not lifting anything over five pounds. At work, there were only two positions that would be considered “light duty”, and both of them were filled. Jason ultimately had two choices; defy the doctor and work hurt, or risk being fired.
Jason tried to work, but was unable to properly fulfill his job requirements, and after a couple of weeks, Jason was terminated from his place of employment.
What about sick time? He hadn’t accrued enough hours to make using sick time a reasonable solution.
What about FMLA? The company had fewer than fifty employees, and so FMLA (The Family and Medical Leave Act) doesn’t apply to them. In this case, the company had thirteen employees.
What about ADA? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may have worked if Jason pressed his employer, but ultimately the ADA would be unable to help due to the size of the business and lack of company resources. Besides, the ADA is concerned with companies making reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities in a job, rather than giving employees time off.
Are there any laws to protect Jason from being fired? There are laws, including subsections to the ADA, which protect employees and their jobs. Unfortunately for Jason, these rules apply to businesses that have at least fifteen employees, and the company that Jason worked for only had thirteen.
The problem was that Jason was injured at home while playing with his friends. He was not injured at work; if he was, then Jason would be protected by the law and still employed.
Could his employer have worked harder to make reasonable accommodations that allowed Jason to keep his job regardless of the law? Maybe, but we don’t know the whole story. What was Jason doing during his two weeks of employment before being terminated? What kind of employee was he; was he always positive, always showed up on time, called in a lot, had a bad attitude? Without the whole story we don’t know what the employer did or was even willing to do.
Owning or working for a small business has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks if something were to happen. What are you doing now to protect yourself if you became unable to fulfill your job duties down the road?
April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.
Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.
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