Question about job termination after an accident

My roommate is on the F1 visa (Students’ visa) and in March this year joined CompanyA on CPT. He was posted to work in the premises of CompanyB. He was being paid a hourly rate. He was in a car crash in July, and spent nearly 45 days recovering in hospital. A week after the crash, while he was in the ICU and barely conscious, he was laid off from his job by CompanyA. They have claimed that once he is well, they may take him on their payrolls again.

Being laid off meant that he lost his insurance just a week into his hospitalization. Now he is back home, attending therapy sessions, and his medical bills have ballooned to over 200K.

My question is, was CompanyA fair in laying him off after the accident? They did, as part of his employment contract, offer him some form of short-term disablity insurance; he gets checks for $300-400 every week it seems. What does the law state in instances like this, when an employee is disabled and unable to work temporarily? Is CompanyA’s conduct lawful? We are in OH state.

TIA for your advice!

Where is this located?

Near the end of the OP, they note: “We are in OH state,” which I am guessing is Ohio.

I am not a lawyer, but I found some links to some information about the Family Medical Leave Act.

It sounds like the FMLA might not cover your roommate’s specific circumstances. This site says:

However, another link on that site, specifically about the FMLA, states:

Even if CompanyA has 50 or more employees, you state that your roommate started working for them in March, which means that he doesn’t meet the 12 months requirement for coverage under the FMLA.

(There might also be a question about whether your roommate’s status on a student visa impacts this, but I’m no expert on that topic.)

Anyone who is fired while on disability leave should consult with an attorney specializing in labor law. It’s unusual to fire someone while they’re on STD as the company may run afoul of the American with Disabilities Act or whatever state regulations Ohio might have. Foreign workers on visas are entitled to the exact same wages and benefits as anyone else authorized to work in the United States. I’d be interested to know if the company has terminated employees in the past under similar circumstances.
Your friend should file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as they are able.

I’d also have to wonder about “losing” the insurance.
If the event happened while insured, wouldn’t all costs directly related to that event be covered? The insurance company can’t retroactively cancel can they?

I would suspect that his employer removed him from their insurance coverage on the date of his termination, or shortly thereafter. I’d also suspect that the insurance company then refused to pay for any bills from that date forward (even though those expenses were incurred as a result of an injury that he suffered while covered).

I don’t think that the insurance company could “retroactively cancel” paying bills incurred up until the date that the guy was fired from his job, but once he was no longer being covered by that insurance company (through his former employer), they likely argued that they were no longer responsible for paying for the ongoing medical treatment.

Was this car crash in any way related to his job? Was he traveling on company business?

From the quoted sentence in the OP, it sounds like he was a contractor. While some firms make contractors employees, most don’t; they’re just a contractor hired for the length of the project. They don’t necessarily get things like paid time off, including holidays, or even benefits (though he did get health insurance in this case).
I agree with your comment about checking with a lawyer but I’m not sure a contractor has the same benefits & protections that an employee does.

He was a contractor for CompanyB, but he was a full-time employee of CompanyA.

No, he was returning home from work in his friend’s car.

He should also check whether he was (or still is) eligible to continue his insurance coverage even after being laid off under Federal or state law.

He is COBRA eligible at the very least. Under COBRA he’d pay 102% of the actual cost for the insurance but if he’s looking at thousands of dollars in medical expenses it might very well be worth it.

For that matter, his friend’s auto insurance (or the insurance of whoever hit them) should have some kind of medical coverage. Maybe he’d even be eligible for both.

He should also talk to his university about making sure that he doesn’t run afoul of the OPT regulations by spending too much time not working.

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal

As I understand it, under COBRA, you have 60 days from the date you lose coverage to opt to keep it going. If he was in the accident in July, and lost his job a week later, the COBRA window has probably closed by this point (though probably very recently).

The employer is required by law to inform their “former” employee about their eligibility to elect COBRA so for their sake I hope the adhered to the rules. These kinds of threads are difficult to address because we’re hearing one side of the story from a second hand source. I put former in quotes because I’m not sure he’s been fired or just placed on leave. And not only can answers vary based on state law (I’m completely unfamiliar with Ohio’s state laws) but may radically changed based on what actually happened.

But the OP’s friend has 180 days to file a complaint with the EEOC which I heartily recommend and I would certainly suggest a consultation with an attorney who specializes in labor laws.

He was laid off, not placed on leave. They took that decision a week into his hospitalization; he came to know about that more than a month after the fact. They have promised him they will “re-hire” him after he completes an “assignment” for them as a pre-condition. Sounds very flaky to me. Maybe this is one of those employers that violate H1B rules and make money on the side by exploiting their employees.

The delay in informing him that he’d been fired might have been illegal (though, again, I’m no lawyer), but was it a matter of your friend not being conscious or coherent enough to understand it until a month had passed?

Either way, I suspect that the advice from Odesio is right – he should talk to a lawyer who specializes in this area.

Did he have any health insurance in February? If he got in the accident before he was hired, would he be in the same situation with the medical bills?

It sounds like CompanyA is a contracting company. Contracting companies typically don’t actually do any work or produce anything themselves. They exist to place temporary employees in other companies to work on a project for a limited term. They typically don’t have good benefits or provide secure employment. If they can’t place the employee, the employee is often let go. I would expect he had to sign some sort of agreement when he was hired and some details may be in there. If CompanyA is a contracting company, I’m not at all surprised he was laid off. I am surprised they offered health benefits, as often they don’t even do that.

Thirded. It might be a good idea to check when the clock starts running for COBRA eligibility if he was not properly informed about it.