Most people in Manhattan have paid sick time to care for themselves, their spouses or their children, but when the sick time an employer gives is not enough, many people can turn to the Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA allows employees to take up to three months of unpaid leave to either recover from a medical condition or to help care for other eligible family members. During that time, an employee cannot be fired, nor can an employer use the employee's leave against him or her after his or her return.
Unfortunately, a Manhattan chef says that he was wrongfully terminated while he was using FMLA leave to care for his wife. The woman had had a stroke and, sadly, died during her husband's leave. Before her death, however, while she was on life support, the chef says he received an email from his boss in which the boss wanted to know when the chef would come back to work.
Though the chef said he had no way of knowing exactly how long he would be away from work, the boss would have none of it. The boss then fired him.
If true, the employer could be held liable for wrongfully terminating the chef in retaliation for taking a federally protected leave. By filing a lawsuit, the chef is likely trying to seek compensation for his lost wages and the incredible financial stress that has come with both losing a wife and a job. As he still has children that he needs to care for, he really cannot afford to not work.
Source: New York Post, "'Chopped' winner fired cook for taking care of dying wife: lawsuit," Julia Marsh, April 7, 2014