I'm Doug, and I'm very sorry to hear of your situation.
Under CA law, absent protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it is lawful to terminate an employee who is on medical leave, unless they are on temporary disability pursuant to a workers' compensation claim.
If she was eligible for FMLA leave, and was experiencing a serious medical illness, she would be entitled to up to 12 weeks of medical leave, and only after that could she be terminated for being unable to work.
To be eligible for leave under the FMLA, an employee must be either a full-time or part-time employee, have more than 12 months (52 weeks) of service with the employer, have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period (24 hours per week) before the date the leave begins, and work at a location in which the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles radius of the employee's work site.
Did she meet the above requirements---all 3 of them:
1. Employer has 50 or more employees, and
2. He has worked longer than 1 year for the employer, and
3. He worked at least 1250 hours in the past 12 months for the employer?
As for the claim of sexual harassment, if she made a claim and the company pretty much swept it under the rug, she might have a viable claim for discrimination.
Please pass this information on to her:
CA law prohibits harassment and discrimination in the workplace and you do have a legal remedy.
Workplace harassment/discrimination is any unwelcome or unwanted conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or an aversion toward another person on the basis of any characteristic protected by law, which includes an individual's race, color, gender, ethnic or national origin, age, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other personal characteristic protected by law. A conduct is considered unwelcome if the employee did not solicit, instigate or provoke it, and the employee regards XXXXX XXXXX as undesirable or offensive.
In CA you have two possible avenues of approach to dealing with discrimination. If your goal is to ultimately sue in Federal Court, then you will file a complaint with the EEOC, and if you want to be in the CA Superior Court---local to your county---then you will file with the DFEH and, if you want to, with the EEOC as well. You must file a formal complaint of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act, and within one year for the CA DFEH.
You may a formal complaint with the CA Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging discrimination based on your sex/sexual harassment and.or for retaliation of reporting harassment.
To do this you must first make an appointment with the Department to be interviewed, either over the phone or at a local DFEH office. You may call the DFEH at(NNN) NNN-NNNN or apply on line by using the Department’s "Online Appointment System." The system will guide you through questions to determine whether an appointment is right for you.
Alternatively, you may file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). If your company has 15 or more employees (the DFEH only requires that there be 5 or more employees), they are prohibited from discriminating against you. To file a complaint with the EEOC, contact the nearest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office. To be automatically connected with the nearest office, call(NNN) NNN-NNNN EEOC website: www.eeoc.gov
Federal law specifically prohibits discrimination, based upon the Ethnicity, Color, Religion, National Origin, Age, Sex and Disability of an individual, with regard to hiring, promotion and firing.
After you file the complaint, your employer will be prohibited from any retaliatory action against you. The EEOC will investigate your claim, and 180 days after the filing of the complaint you may ask for a "right to sue letter". The EEOC will issue you the letter which gives you the right to institute a private civil action against your employer and seek monetary damages.
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I wish you the best in 2013,