Losing a loved one is never easy, and during these times of grief, the last thing you want to worry about is your job. There are many places of employment that understand that this is a stressful time for you and that you may not be able to perform your duties. For this reason, they’ll allow you to take what is called bereavement leave to recover.
But can your employer fire you while you take this leave? What would make your mourning period much worse would be losing a loved one and then losing your job and ability to care for yourself. If you’ve been fired while on bereavement leave or are worried about job security before taking it, let the employment law attorneys at Barrett & Farahany explain the ins and outs.
What is Bereavement Leave?
Bereavement leave – also known as compassionate leave or funeral leave – is time off work given to employees who have experienced the loss of a family member. This typically includes immediate family members such as parents, siblings, spouses, and children, but some companies may extend it to other family members or close friends.
The purpose of this is to give employees the time and space they need to grieve and attend funeral arrangements without worrying about losing their job or income. It is not a vacation or personal leave in most circumstances; it is granted for compassionate reasons only.
Do Any Laws Protect Bereavement Leave?
The laws vary from state to state. In fact, only two states require it: Washington and Oregon. Illinois does require that employers with over 50 employees allow bereavement leave. Each one promises different amounts of time for bereavement.
In all other states, it is up to company policy. Unless a company has it stated in one of your employment contracts that you have promised bereavement leave, they can fire you for taking it.
What About the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
In the United States, there is no federal law that mandates bereavement leave. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious health condition. It’s not impossible to argue that this includes a form of bereavement leave so you can care for a family member suffering after your loss. For instance, a depressed family member or a family member who was dependent on the recently deceased can need help that would qualify you for FMLA.
It is essential to familiarize yourself with the laws and policies in your country or state to understand your rights as an employee. If you have questions, you can speak to one of our attorneys.
Can An Employer Fire You for Taking Bereavement Leave?
In most cases, yes. As mentioned earlier, it is granted for compassionate reasons, not legal reasons. If you cannot show that your bereavement period falls under FMLA or a clause of your employment contract, you can be terminated.
However, if your employer or manager tells you that you can take bereavement leave and then fires you, this can be evidence of a wrongful termination. Misleading you only to fire you isn’t illegal, but it’s a type of behavior that can be described as suspicious.
It is best to communicate with your employer and provide them with any necessary documentation, such as a death certificate or funeral program, to avoid any misunderstandings. Keep a record of whatever they tell you, including permission to take bereavement leave.
Contact the Employment Law Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany For Help
Losing a loved one is never easy, and being able to take time off from work to grieve is important. You can’t always do that if you’re worried about losing your job. Understanding your rights as an employee and the laws and policies in your country or state can help you navigate bereavement leave during these difficult times.
If you are afraid of losing your job if you take bereavement leave or have already been fired after taking bereavement leave, contact the attorneys at Barrett & Farahany. We’ll help you determine if you qualify or qualified for FMLA leave, and if there’s reason to believe you have been the victim of wrongful termination. Contact us for help today.