Q. Our company is planning a layoff, for which we will follow a “seniority” system to decide whose jobs are affected. When I look at our seniority list, I see that some of our current employees are out on medical leaves of absence. How should these employees be treated for layoff purposes?
A. Medical leaves of absence do not normally protect an employee from a layoff. Thus, it is appropriate to send a notice of layoff to an employee who is not working because of a medical condition, just as you would to any other employee.
The more difficult question is how the layoff might affect the employee’s benefits. For example, if the employee is receiving sickness and accident benefits, does the employee continue to receive those benefits after the layoff?
The answer to that question turns on how the sickness and accident benefit plan was written or has been interpreted in the past. In most circumstances, assuming the employee continues to be unable to work because of the medical condition, his or her entitlement to receive sickness and accident benefits would continue even during the layoff. Before making any benefit determinations, however, you should review the situation with your labor counsel.
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