Can I Get Unemployment If I Take a Leave of Absence & Get Fired?

by Fraser Sherman; Updated September 26, 2017

Your right to an unemployment check depends on your state's laws and the reason you're unemployed. In many states, you're usually entitled to unemployment after you're fired. Other states, such as Ohio, won't let you claim unemployment benefits if you were fired for "just cause," such as violating company rules. If you're fired while on leave, the circumstances determine whether you get unemployment.

Fired for Taking Leave

Some state and federal laws give you the right to stay home from work. The federal Family Medical Leave Act, for example, gives eligible employees the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave -- to care for a baby or a sick spouse, for example -- over a 12-month period. If your employer fires you for taking leave to which you're legally entitled, that's not a just-cause firing. In addition to claiming unemployment, you may be able to sue for wrongful termination.

A Matter of Timing

If your employer fires you while you're taking leave -- but not because you took leave -- the reason for terminating you makes a difference. Suppose, for example, that you're out on leave when the boss discovers you stole from the company. Getting fired for theft would disqualify you from unemployment benefits in many states.

Following the Rules

Your employer can set some conditions on your leave. If you request FMLA leave to care for your spouse, for example, the company can ask your doctor to certify that your spouse is sick. The company can delay your leave until the doctor replies. If the company fires you for taking leave without following the rules, some states would treat that as a just-cause firing. That would disqualify you from claiming unemployment.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.