Recently, one of our cases was dismissed after nearly two years of litigation in Sacramento Superior Court, because one key piece of evidence was missing. In that case, a State employee was deemed AWOL after not returning to work by the date, noted by her doctor. She requested an additional leave from her supervisor after having been on medical leave for nearly a year already at that time.
The supervisor refused to provide the same despite knowing about the claimant’s long history of injury, pain and treatment. That manager was firm that he was going to follow the instructions of then existing medical note, ordering the the employee return to work with specific restrictions. The employee did not return to work, but instead went to see her doctor who apparently extended her medical leave.
However, the claimant was not able to produce that medical note at the time the motion to dismiss the case was heard and also wasn’t able to prove that she provided the note to any of her manager prior to being deemed AWOL and terminated.
The two lessons from this loss is clear and simple for any employee who wants to either avoid being deemed AWOL or for someone who wants to have a stronger wrongful termination and disability discrimination case after being terminated:
1. You cannot simply refuse to return to work relying on your own experience of pain and without formal medical substantiated from at least one doctor, that would take you off work for a specific period of time.
2. If you obtain a note extending your medical leave beyond that which was previously approved, it is critical that you provide that note to your manager or to your human resources or disability manager, or preferably – to all of the above.