Thank you for your reply. Sorry for my confusion in calling your nephew your son.
It's good for your nephew that his employer employs at least 50 employees because that means he may be eligible to take leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act for up to 12 weeks if a doctor determines that his stress and anxiety constitute a "serious health condition."
The FMLA is a federal act that guarantees eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave on account of, among other things, an employee’s own serious health condition which prevents him/her from working.
In order to be “eligible” the employee must have worked for the employer for at least one year, and worked roughly 30 hours per week (on average) during that year. Also, only employers with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s work site are required to provide FMLA protections.
Where an eligible employee takes FMLA leave, he or she has the right to return to work in his or her own, or to a substantially equivalent position, if he/she returns on or before the expiration of the 12-week leave period. In other words, an employer cannot refuse to permit FMLA leave or retaliation against an employee for their decision to take it.
For more information regarding FMLA leave, visit this link: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm
In addition to FMLA, in certain very limited circumstances California courts will recognize job-related workers compensation claims, and an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for filing such a claim. However, insurers vigorously fight these claims (for stress and anxiety) and treat them with great skepticism. Further, the burden of proof is on the claimant and typically requires them to show that the behavior of co-workers or their employer "shocked the conscience." This is a very hard thing to prove. Accordingly, it is quite rare that a workers compensation claim for job induced stress is successful.
The big caveat to all of this is that, while an employee cannot be retaliated against for taking FMLA leave or filing for workers comp, these things do not prohibit an employer from terminating an employee for reasons not related to the FMLA or workers comp. In other words, employees can't "evade" termination by filing for workers comp or FMLA. Since it doesn't seem as though your nephew is at risk for termination for performance issues or economic circumstances, this is likely not an issue.
Aside from taking FMLA protected leave or making a claim for workers comp, an employer is free to terminate an employee for missing work due to health issues, typically speaking. Further, an employer is under no obligation to provide time off for an employee's health condition and violates no law by telling other employees what the reason for the employee's absence is.
The sole exceptions to these general principles are FMLA and workers comp, as discussed above, but those exceptions, particularly FMLA, may provide your nephew with the protection that he seeks.
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