Employee on Long-Term Disability - Can she be laid-off/fired?

My wife is in a unionized position and has been on LTD for just under a year. She wants to go back to work when she is able, but the employer is unsure about whether they want her back. Due to some recent negotiations at work, her position (and 3 others) has been eliminated. There are a couple of positions open in other areas of the organization that she could apply for, and has seniority over other applicants.

My question is: Can she be laid-off/fired while on LTD? I guess I figured that she’s ‘protected’ while on LTD and the company can’t just dump her while she’s off.

She is trying to get this figured out with her shop steward, but I thought I’d ask people who may know…

And yes, I know, you are not my lawyer and different jurisdications and all, so YMMV. We will be doing the appropriate research, but I wanted to get an idea of whether this even makes sense to pursue. We are in Toronto.

IANAL and all that …

my understanding is that her position can be filled by someone else if keeping it vacant is a hardship to the company and that the position can be eliminated.

the company’s obligation to her would be to offer her a “similar” position when she’s ready to return to work, and “similar” can have a LOT of wiggle room.

And that is exactly what happened over the last year…she went on short-term and it progressed into long-term. Her position was filled with a person who understood that it was a temporary assignment. That’s fine and we realize that the employer needs to continue working at the same level.

My question is, if the position is eliminated, do the benefits stop when ‘her’ position is no longer a going concern? Or does this only become an issue when she is able to return to work and there is no position for her to take?

We’re trying to figure out if the benefits are going to end and when. She is having a lot of stess about it right now because we don’t know the answer and she is preparing for the worst. Hopefully she will be able to get this all cleared up in a couple of days.

ah. well. that’s trickier. however, it should be spelled out in the contract. Can you contact a steward ? or, how do you feel about talking to the company’s HR person ?

We’re in the process of doing that now. I suppose the reason that I ask is that I thought that there must be some sort of legislation in place to prevent employers from firing people while on LTD so they don’t have to pay the insurance premiums.

BTW, this is not a case of someone taking advantage of disability benefits. She would like to get back to work, but has multiple doctors supporting her need to stay off work, and to this point the insurance company is allowing her.

Definitely speak to a shop steward. With most unionized work situations, the precise details and conditions for returning to work after LTD are generally spelled out in the labor agreement.

It’s a contract law thing, and no lawyer who has not read the contract can ethically advise you here.

As a general rule (absent any contract provisions and/or local laws to the contrary) the company would be obliged to offer her a “similar” work situation, which could constitute a lot of things.

Let’s look at it another way. Suppose that a company laid off an entire work site or an entire department. Would they be required to keep paying extra benefits to the people who happen to be on LTD at the time?

In any event, as others have said, the answer is highly dependent on arcane local laws and specific Union contracts.


In some instances, yes, it looks like they would. The recent NHL lockout being my example. While the players weren’t laid off as in your example, they weren’t able to go to work; the players who were on injured reserve at the time were paid until they were able to play again. Cite

Thinking about it some more, it would make sense to keep paying them. You’ve purchased insurance or else the company purchased it on your behalf and you deserve the full benefits of the policy.


I am an HR person, not a lawyer.

In general agree with what’s already been said, but thought I’d pull a few thoughts together. In a unionized situation it will be the specific contract that determines what the rules are.

There is no federal law (and probably no state law) that prevents an employer from laying off someone on disability. As was pointed out, if a position is truly no longer needed (laying off all of the typewriter repairmen, for example) whether the position was previously held by someone with a disability doesn’t matter. However, the ADA would prevent someone from being laid off because of their qualifying disability. Qualifying for LTD insurance and ADA protection would be by different criteria.

Also a good point is that the continuance of her LTD insurance payments and her employment are 2 different things.

I hope this helps you frame your questions to the steward, and best of luck to you and your wife.